Gender diversity, entrepreneurship in education and the potential for climate-conscious investing were among the issues discussed as BGF launched its Ready for Business campaign in an enthralling debate bringing together some of the nation’s leading business voices.
The panel included Rosaleen Blair CBE, CEO of Alexander Mann Solutions, Sir Rod Aldridge OBE, Founder of Capita, Edwina Dunn, Founder of Dunnhumby and CEO of Starcount and Jimmy McLoughlin, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister.
They joined BGF CEO Stephen Welton and panel chair, BBC news anchor Fiona Bruce on an evening that shared the message to companies around the UK of BGF’s commitment to confidently advocate for growth, for entrepreneurs and for investing in the age of uncertainty, and to demonstrate the tremendous impact of Britain’s fast-growing small and medium-sized enterprises to the UK economy.
More than 100 guests joined the debate to engage with the key issues facing the UK and Ireland’s businesses in a time of uncertainty and disruption, and look at the opportunities and industries that will define the future.
Turning challenges to opportunities
Rosaleen Blair echoed the sentiments of many in the room in the need to dispel current pessimism in the British business landscape, calling for more recognition of the opportunities in the UK for growing businesses: “I’m tired of the negativity, there is a need for optimism and to change the narrative.”
Sir Rod Aldridge explained how his own success was borne from making the most of challenging circumstances: “Opportunity comes from difficult situations similar to those we are going through at the moment. My story was around a government that wanted to dismantle the public sector and I created an outsourcing business from it.”
Preparing for the future
The UK’s start-up landscape and the challenges of its young businesses were put under the microscope, with Jimmy McLoughlin calling for more targeted investment to fuel growth in specific sectors: “We’re heading towards a golden age of entrepreneurship. We have a lot of start-ups but what we need to do next is move towards scale-ups.”
Central to the evening’s discussions was the topic of education and how the UK can create a steady flow of STEM-skilled talent to thrive in a digital economy. Edwina Dunn stressed the importance of steering children towards STEM subjects: “The career advice needs to change and help children understand that science subjects are vital to the best future jobs.”
The evening concluded with a look towards future industries, with panellists hailing green energy, data science, EdTech, RegTech and AgriTech as just a few of the sectors where the UK could take the lead.
The evening also launched the Ready for Business report to showcase the extraordinary talent, economic contribution and innovation in this country lead by our small and medium sized businesses. Read more about the campaign here.