On February 24th we joined nearly 800 senior business and political leaders at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London to attend Britain's premier manufacturing event.
As part of the event FBC Manby Bowdler took part in a wide range of discussions including the UK’s future in the EU (82% of the audience said we should remain), unlocking the global trade challenge, cracking Britain’s productivity puzzle and the Apprenticeship Levy.
Introduced to the day by Terry Scuoler who championed our universities and capability to innovate, he was swiftly followed by Martin Wolf CBE from the Financial Times, who in his own straight talking manner told the audience how he perceived the economy at the moment.
We then listened to The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills , Sajid Javid, who gave us an insight into his childhood and a passionate speech about the importance of manufacturing to the UK economy including his new T-Shirt idea – one that reads “We are British…and that means we make things".
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP, was next up, who ditched his prepared notes and delivered a humorous insight into how robotics and automation technologies were accelerating productivity and innovation in manufacturing and when surveyed, half the audience agreed with him that technology would increase productivity.
Then followed the panel debates. The first debate concerned the EU referendum. Not intending to cover much of what was said other than to reiterate what Martin Woolf said earlier “We know what staying will mean, no-one knows what leaving will mean".
The next panel concerned Productivity and was very enjoyable with useful thoughts from Lisa Pope from Infor, Dr Hamid Mughal from Rolls Royce, Lee Hopley from EEF and Brian McCulloch from Wright Bus. The upshot of which was that the audience pointed to three main areas they felt was holding back the UK namely:
* Shortage of the workforce with the right skills
* Uncertainty in the business environment
* Lack of ambition within companies
The next panel covered the Global Trade Challenge and we heard from the inspirational Elizabeth Fothergill from Pennine Healthcare, located in Derby, which now exports to over 70 countries and Edward Naylor, CEO of Naylor Industries whose advice of “network, network, network” was well received.
The final panel was on the Apprenticeship Levy. Panel members from the EEF, BIS and HM Treasury discussed the levy with the view from the floor being "you couldn't come up with a more complicated system". To be fair I couldn’t figure out with what was being proposed and there appeared to be lots of unanswered questions.
The final keynote speaker was Baroness Karren Brady CBE, and she was excellent. Drawing on personal insights from the beginning of her career to the challenges that lay ahead, she gave us all food for thought and top advice for when it gets tough “Grit your teeth, find your backbone and then put one foot in front of another” and her keys to business success being, leadership, ambition, determination, attitude, direction and positivity. Extremely motivational.
This was a fantastic conference, a great place to catch up with contacts and make new friends. See you all there next year!
Follow this link to find out more.