Opinion

Britain's back in business

5 min read

03 January 2013

Liverpool’s waterfront provided a stunning backdrop for prime minister David Cameron to launch Britain’s business pitch to the world today.

The International Festival for Business (IFB) is a major world expo for enterprise to be hosted in Liverpool in the summer of 2014. Cameron is in the city to show that the ambitious project has his personal backing and the support of government.

If 2012 was about the Olympics, the greatest sporting show on earth, the new message is every bit as ambitious. It is the pitch to present Britain as the most business friendly nation on the planet.

The prime minister said, “We are in a global race in the world today. We have to recognise that we are in a global competition and some countries will make it and some will not. I am determined that Britain will make it. British products, British technology and British exports.”

He said that this was why the IFB has “my full support. It’s an excellent idea and the government will be right behind you every step of the way.”

The IFB is a global showcase for British business to promote products to international markets, it aims to help rebalance the economy and is a key part of the strategy to double UK exports by 2020.

The city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, echoed the prime minister’s words, saying that the IFB will showcase everything that is best about business, entrepreneurship and innovation in the UK. He said the IFB would be “the biggest event in Britain since the Festival of Britain in 1951.”

I have been working on the IFB with the city of Liverpool and the ambition of the project is superb. It will take place in June and July of 2014, will deliver 61 days of business and cultural events aimed at delivering £100m in new investment to the UK economy.

Expect to see day after day of blockbuster events, big name speakers, and business leaders from all over the world. Clarion Events, the delivery partner for the event will be “fired up for business”, said Simon Kimble, its chief executive.

The prime minister also made an interesting point about the vital role of cities in economic recovery. He said, “Our cities will be vital and it is the cities that really focus on being great places to live, great places to invest and great places to work that will succeed.”

This is why Liverpool is an informed choice for hosting the IFB. It is a British bell weather city; its challenges and opportunities are the nation’s challenges and opportunities.

Its appetite to get on the road from recession to recovery is palpable. Business leaders were urged to get their shoulders behind the wheel and realise the potential of the event by Liverpool Vision’s Max Steinberg, while his colleague, Ian McCarthy, said that, “the city works best when it works together” to general applause.

Down by the riverside you really do get a sense of the scale and success of the city’s recent regeneration projects. It is stunning and provides a powerful vista of urban transformation.

Today’s event took place in the £74m Museum of Liverpool, a breathtaking facility opened in 2011. It stands at the heart of a series of buildings that have transformed the heart of the city. Come 2014, it and the rest of Liverpool will provide a stage for business and a message to the world that Britain means business.

The PM closed proceedings with a flourish siting, “plenty of reasons for optimism” and that, “we can achieve our personal best and amaze and dazzle the world. It is really important that we put our best forward and demonstrate the important industrial nation that we are.”

Time will tell whether this is rhetoric or reality but there is a quiet recovery underway. Every week some 1,000 jobs are being created across the country and right now Britain has the highest number of start-ups in its history.

Times are still tough and the nation has a hell of a mountain still to climb to avoid its own fiscal cliff. But events like the IFB are crucial in selling the message that Britain is back in business.

Michael Hayman is a co-founder of the public relations firm Seven Hills, a co-founder of the national campaign for entrepreneurs StartUp Britain, and Chairman of MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival.