Be Part of the Solution and Innovate Through Brexit

natalie speaking question panel 2

In the light of Brexit, our chairman Barry Dodd, CBE, blogs on the need for UK companies to innovate.

”In these times of economic uncertainty it’s important for someone like me with my global business perspective to share my optimism for the future of UK business.

Having a multi-national business means I get to travel and meet senior business leaders from many countries, and what strikes me are all the innovation opportunities. I stand by what I said at our annual general meeting in Harrogate, that I have never seen as much opportunity in my working life as I do today.

Take Boston for example. If you live there your DVD could be delivered by drone. Around the world –artificial intelligence is becoming more widely available for sectors from medical diagnosis to voice recognition and stock trading. In the next 10-15 years more work could be automated, and in the UK there is talk of a digital railway revolution. With all these changes on the horizon we should all be thinking, how can we position our businesses to benefit.

Embracing change lies at the heart of this approach. It was interesting hearing from one of our AGM’s keynote speakers, chief operating officer Natalie Cramp from the government’s Careers and Enterprise Company trying to instil this positive attitude in our young folk. The organisation is leading a new national approach to careers advice in schools, where having the right skills like resilience and having the right attitude are as important as academic certificates.

It’s difficult to find a more shining example of this positive attitude than from independent councillor Johnny Hayes, chairman of the Bishopthorpe Road Traders Association in York. In 1999 he went out to a buy a pot of paint and he came back with a hardware store. It was a move he financed by selling his own house, and his family were determined to make a success of it. Together with the other shopkeepers on Bishy Road, they weathered a recession, seven empty shops and the fashion for big shopping centres, to finally become Winner of the Best British High Street last year.

We also heard from pioneering research organisation Nesta who reminded us that for future change, there are three things our area’s businesses should be looking at. Digital data driven decision making will be vital over the next 10 years, for companies and local authorities. We have a Digital Catapult Centre in Yorkshire, are you aware of what it could do for your business.  ? In terms of energy, we should consider how we can use the local energy infrastructure, for example through using waste and the bioeconomy. And finally, we have seen lots of new forms of financing appear recently. These are opportunities to connect with people and get them involved. Traditionally we have focussed on economic growth, but should we also be thinking more about the social costs and benefits.

With Brexit, rather than assuming catastrophe, we need to think about how we can be part of the solution. You’ll probably know by now that our area, York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding has the largest private sector investment in the Northern Powerhouse, the £1.76 billion potash mine, no less. The world’s largest offshore wind farm also continues to be developed and major skills investments such as Scarborough University Technical College are delivering. Our Agri-Food and Bio-Economy assets are world class; we have many resilient small businesses and an unrivalled quality of life something investors in an Ernst and Young poll said recently was the most important factor for those considering investments.

We know that Britain’s economy is one of the strongest in the world, with low, stable inflation, high employment and a resilient financial system. Here since 2014, the GVA of area has grown by £1.4billion and created almost 22,000 jobs. WE have a €110m EU funded Programme investing in business growth, innovation and skills, and we still expect our EU programme to go ahead. Our message to partners is push on with your plans; we are committed to this programme and are working with government to ensure it is retained

All in all, what is certain is that we need to work smarter than ever before. The future is what we make it, and everybody must play their part. The LEP is here to help and. our response is based on three key elements.

  1. Working with partners to understand what Brexit means for business and the positive impact EU investment has had in the region.
  2. Working with business to take advantage of new opportunities
  3. Being part of the solution, working with government to secure investment and deliver long term growth and jobs across York, North Yorkshire & East Riding.

We want our area to be one of the most innovative in the country, this period of change is a great chance for businesses to spot new opportunities. We are here to help them take advantage.”