FANTASTIC OPENING DAY FOR BUSINESS FESTIVAL
There was music, colour and leading lights on stage - but not a Wellington boot in sight, as the International Business Festival got under way in Liverpool.
Styling itself as ‘The Glastonbury for Business’, the Festival welcomed delegates from across the UK and around the world to peer into the future of our high-growth industries.
Along with an impressive roster of speakers, a Knowledge Hub offering practical workshops and an international marketplace with dozens of exhibiting companies and investment bodies, the Festival featured a ‘Best of British’ showcase in the UK Innovation Hub.
And the bright colour scheme at the venue – at Exhibition Centre Liverpool – made an immediate impression on delegates like Yash Khandhia, from Cheshire-based Applied Computing & Engineering Ltd.
“The design is great,” he said of an exhibition hall festooned with drapes by designer Wayne Hemingway’s team. “It’s certainly eye-catching and you can’t fault the location, it’s brilliant.”
And the morning’s content produced some equally strong discussion points, with Confederation of British Industry director-general Carolyn Fairbairn demanding better infrastructure and more joined-up government policy, as well as taking a swipe at US President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies.
The opening day of the three-week event was themed around Global Economics, with BBC World business presenter Tanya Beckett guiding the audience through sessions covering economic forecasts and how British companies can adapt to seismic changes in technology.
“It was a very engaging day. The level of discussion – and also audience engagement – was very high, which made for a stimulating day,” she said. Delegates were able to question speakers directly using the Sli.Do app.
At one stage there was a drum beat to lend a carnival atmosphere to proceedings, as 16 to 24-year-olds taking part in NextGenFest took a hands-on approach to learning about the benefits of Commonwealth connections.
Travers Lee, from Founders4Schools – one of partners supporting sponsor HSBC in delivering this festival-within-a-festival – said: “We had a lot of groups of young people through in the morning.
"It’s been a great day and we’ve had a few dozen professionals come to find out more about what we’re doing to connect young talent with business leaders.”
Proceedings in the Knowledge Hub were kicked off by Kevin Ledwith, of UK Export Finance, who highlighted how the government body can lend businesses support to guarantee finance when securing export contracts.
Export is a key focus of the Festival and HSBC Adam Tian was on hand to encourage delegates to tap into the markets of Chinese “supercities” with economies the size of countries. He offered tips on dealing with the culture in a country where “people are too polite to say no”.
There was a distinct Chinese flavour to proceedings, with no fewer than 10 delegations travelling from Shanghai alone. Liverpool’s twin city launched its Amazing Shanghai campaign on the Futures Stage, and presented on the opportunities available to companies trading in the port in the Knowledge Hub.
Angie May, head of clinical partnerships at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, was interested in the opportunities of promoting British expertise abroad, having previously welcomed several Chinese delegations on information-sharing missions.
“We’re interested in engaging internationally as an organisation and work with Healthcare UK (part of the Department for International Trade) to promote the NHS brand internationally,” she said. “We have clinical expertise, great innovators and our Academy for education.”
Some of the cutting-edge products on display in the UK Innovation Hub included a 100% recyclable cardboard desk produced by Devon company TCi, which installs temporary furniture for the construction industry.
“We often put in 200 or 300 desks at a time and then five or six years down the line, the project’s finished and the desks get binned,” said marketing manager Ben Gibbs. “There’s a lot of pressure on the construction industry to improve its sustainability so we spotted the opportunity to create a recyclable alternative.”
The Festival continues on June 13, with a day themed around Urbanisation & Cities. Top speakers include Lord Heseltine, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Siemens CEO Juergen Maier, while practical sessions focus on blockchain in real estate, sustainable city projects and modern urban design.