Richard Lambert opens the Entrepreneurs’ Summit

"When i last spoke at this event i said that entrepreneurial culture was alive and flourishing. Back then the climate was the best we’d seen since the second world war. I spoke too soon. Credit conditions were as favourable as they could be, with money men falling over themselves to invest. The tax structure was designed to give entrepreneurs every incentive to grow their businesses.

The climate for activity has got distinctly chillier since then.

Fast-forward 12 months, the global credit crunch has slammed growth, inflation is squeaking up… this imposes limits on the banks’ ability to cut interest rates. It’s a global problem and the impact will be with us for some time.

Our entrepreneurs have made it clear what they think of the clumsy changes made to our tax system. These changes have not been driven by economic situations, but out of the blue to whack up the tax rate. Will it be enough to make entrepreneurs abandon their dreams? Of course not. But because of the way the changes were imposed, business people are less inclined to believe that Britain is a place to count on in the long term.

Readings on the UK’s entrepreneurial barometer have slipped. But here’s the credit side of the balance sheet. The government does want to rebuild bridges. Hutton promises to curb new regulations. There are ideas about giving SMEs better access to finance and government procurement.

According to the World Bank, the UK is the sixth best place to set up a company. We’ve got a great higher education system and there’s a growing number of entrepreneurial hubs growing around universities. Young people are encouraged to come up with zippy ideas. And leading entrepreneurs in this country ae also doing their bit. The Hunter foundation has already committed 35m to educational endeavours everywhere.

Plus, we are in possession of the language of business. The English language.

[Referring to young people’s appetite for business] I love the Apprentice! Its nothing like the real world, but it makes great viewing and raises the profile of entrepreneurialism in the UK.

Despite all the bad news, just looking at the list of speakers cheers me up. In the tough business conditions of the next year or two, entrepreneurs are going to have to work hard. But despite all the gloomy headlines, many opportunities come at time of change when established firms find things harder. Changing lifestyles and technical advancements are creating great opportunities for business."

This is Richard Lambert, speaking at today’s Summit, at 9:30am.

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