On 21st November 2014, Wales hosted one of the national business events of the year: the Investment Summit.
With the enticing theme of ‘embracing new technology for competitive advantage’, the Welsh and UK governments invited a select group of 150 global investors, business leaders and senior government ministers to hold high level strategic discussions.
Discussions such as:
• strategies used by leading businesses to keep up with and use new technology for growth
• anticipating technology and the pull through into commercialisation
• methods used to commit cyber-crime and the work being done in Wales to respond to this threat
• development of new models of academic and business interaction
• the role of Wales to support technology developments and business growth
And following the interest generated for Welsh businesses by the recent NATO summit, this was a highly anticipated event.
But all of this begs a single two-worded question: so what?
In other words, what are the implications of this summit for Wales and the rest of the world?
To answer this, we thought we’d find out the thoughts of David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK. And whilst we didn’t have the opportunity to ask him this in person, what follows is a summary of key points from the speech he delivered at the summit on industry, infrastructure and investment in the UK.
The bicycle that wasn’t built
Early on in the Prime Minister’s speech, he highlighted some of the phenomenal business inventions and products already being created within Wales. Things like:
• Smoke-less motorbikes that emit water from their exhaust
• Concrete that bends so you can buy it by the roll
• 3-D digitally printed bicycles
• Cutting-edge energy from the ‘holiday-destination’ of Pembrokeshire
• Aerospace technology from the ‘rugby capital’ of Cardiff
And a number of other notable examples.
Cameron also outlined the 4 key ingredients that he believed were necessary for taking Wales’ achievements to the next level. These were:
1. Fiscal common sense and sound public finances
2. Business-friendly approaches
3. Modern infrastructure enabling businesses to get their goods to market
4. Openness to trade, investment and partnerships
Building a solid foundation
During the Prime Minister’s speech, he referenced conversations he’d had with investors from around the world. And one of the key points in these conversations was how much investment relied on confidence in the future of the country. This provided a bit of context for some of the decisions being made with regards to reducing the deficit, keeping interest rates down and delivering economic stability.
And Cameron made a direct link between those decisions and the earlier cited economic achievements in Wales; all a result of a belief that “successful nations have got to have a solid foundation.”
Tax incentives and the ‘Red Tape Challenge’
On the point of being ‘business friendly’, David Cameron referred to the drive for Britain to have the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20, and the Red Tape Challenge.
This is where all government regulations have been listed on the internet for the public to be able to say which ones should be eliminated. And the challenge is that before a new regulation can be introduced, two existing ones have to be abolished.
So far this challenge has annihilated £1.5 billion in bureaucratic ‘red tape’ expenses. And what this signals to businesses in Wales is the government’s commitment to leanness, as well as maximising resources for the benefit of growth and progress.
Promoting Wales tothe world
Throughout the speech, Cameron used words like ‘sell’ and ‘offer’ and ‘incentives’. And the crux of all of it was a desire to make the UK, and in particular Wales, an attractive destination for businesses around the world. Statistically speaking, this focus has been reflected by how foreign investment in Wales has trebled over the last couple of years, and is still on the rise. It has been underscored by the recent NATO summit that showcased Wales to the world. And it has been validated by a company like Amazon choosing to construct its biggest warehouse – the size of 10 football pitches – just outside Swansea; not to mention the 26,000 small businesses who have established a presence in Wales since 2010.
So in conclusion, Investment Summit 2014 has showcased Wales’ remarkable achievements, highlighted key government decisions being made that have benefited Welsh businesses, and demonstrated that despite concerns about the economy, the future for business in Wales is extremely promising.