International Business Festival 2018




21 June 2018

Day Six at the International Business Festival featured a robot invasion, a major funding announcement and a celebrity visit, before ending with a blistering critique of capitalism.

It was Global Logistics & Shipping Day at Exhibition Centre Liverpool, and – with the International Robotics Showcase being hosted on-site – an army of mechanical beasts was being exhibited in the Festival’s international marketplace.

Sue Anne Tay, head of HSBC’s China Desk, was first to be introduced on the Futures Stage by host, the academic and ‘futurologist’ Chris Kutarna.

She spoke about China’s Belt and Road Initiative – the ‘New Silk Roads’ – in terms of “bringing China and Europe closer together”, and ran through the opportunities that might present.Composite image showing robots on the Festival floor

One famous face trying to put that into practice was former England footballer Jamie Carragher. He turned heads on the Festival floor on his way to discuss preparations to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city’s twinning with Liverpool with representatives of Branding Shanghai.

“We had a good getting-to-know-you meeting and so I’m hoping to go over and meet people there in the future. There’s a link between Shanghai and this city so it’s fantastic I can do my bit to help strengthen that.”

The timing of his arrival made for an unlikely match when he crossed paths with Business Secretary Greg Clarke, who was viewing some of the cutting-edge innovation on the Festival floor.

Mr Clarke thanked the former Liverpool player for his efforts in developing UK-Sino relations, before heading to the Futures Stage to announce £1.3bn in investment aimed at “helping to create the tech CEOs, research pioneers and Nobel Prize winners of the future”.

The inaugural Future Leaders Fellowship Programme would fund 550 “rising stars of science and innovation” over three years, and would be open to people from all over the world.

“On top of this we are investing £350m in prestigious National Academy fellowships and allocating £50m for additional PhDs,” he said.

Greg Clarke addresses the Futures Stage audienceThe UK would invest 2.4% of GDP in research and development by 2027 and help Britain’s become the world’s most innovative economy by 2030, he added.

Mr Clarke addressed Brexit, saying that while the debate had hitherto largely focused on trade in goods, the government must “deliberately set out” to introduce “as few new barriers to trade in services as possible”.

“This is every bit as important as avoiding barriers in manufactured goods,” he said, adding: “In order to provide services, it is people who must not be held up.”

He said he valued the view of businesses at the Festival “because the business view puts evidence before ideology”.

“You all know the reality of employing people and exporting across the world. And that is something we need to listen to.”

However, keynote speaker Gina Miller – the woman whose legal campaign forced the government to consult Parliament over the Brexit process – delivered a stinging rebuke to ministers.

“The government is trying to bypass our own law; ironic, given the drumbeat of the Leave campaigners was sovereignty,” she said.

She said a “no deal” scenario was increasingly likely, and that the public was continually being “wilfully misled” about the prospects of a deal that would benefit the UK.

However, she said that the public – including those in the audience – bore some responsibility for a situation that had developed in which there was a lack of trust in “cowardly” politicians.

“Your role is to speak up because you’re in positions of responsibility. You can be the change-makers,” she said.Gina Miller on the Futures Stage

“We all have a civic duty to be actively engaged in challenging contemporary issues facing businesses, politics and wider society.”

Throughout her speech – part of Culture Liverpool’s Future World of Work season – she urged people to take a fresh look at their own actions.

“Look at what your business does,” she urged. “Use that skill to actually help people. If you’re in plastic surgery, don’t just give to charity, help people suffering from disfigurement.

“That’s smart giving; not giving to a charity because I know a royal or a celebrity is going to be on the board that I can have my photo taken with,” she added, to strong applause.

She said capitalism in its current form was exacerbating inequality and that the term transparency was being “used in discourse and debate but it has not become corporate DNA”.

Ms Miller said: “Business should adopt what I call ‘the grandmother test’. Would I say this, or sell this to my grandmother?”

“Unethical, unshared capitalism will lead to a fractured society.... Big business must have a social conscience... We need to shine a light where darkness exists."

It made for a stirring end to an eventful second week at the Festival, ahead of further days focused on Health & Life Sciences, Creative Industries and Sport, Culture & Travel.

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