Enterprise Week goes global

Somewhat accidentally, I found myself in a small, crowded, standing-only room in the Hyatt Churchill Hotel in Portman Square, rubbing shoulders with Karan Bilimoria, John Hutton (Secretary of State for the Department for Business) and an army of people from more than 30 other countries.

Pressed up behind a lectern was the Prime Minister, announcing that Enterprise Week – now in its fourth year – was set to be a global enterprise itself in 2008. There will be at least 37 countries holding their own Enterprise Week next year.

It was intriguing – even bemusing – to hear Carl Schramm, CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, the US’ leading think tank and evangelist of entrepreneurship, praising our PM for his commitment to enterprise. The Foundation, he said, freely “confessed to the theft of intellectual property” by aping the UK’s Enterprise Week concept.

Gordon Brown himself said that he wanted “every school, college and university to be twinned with a business company” and that he wanted more business people to become mentors, and that he wanted business clubs to be set up all over the country.

Brown got a laugh when he told the story of visiting his old school in Fife, which had just held an enterprise competition. He was still the Chancellor then, and was told by the winning students that their newly-founded company had made a profit and not paid any corporation tax.

There wasn’t time or opportunity to ask any questions about, for example, capital gains tax.

The new global Enterprise Week is being backed by the Department for Business as well as the Kauffman Foundation and is being sponsored by IBM and the New York Stock Exchange. It was good to see such an announcement taking place in London but disappointing that the two main commercial sponsors are large and American. There really should have been a large British company supporting this.

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