Director of Innovation for CBI
"As the UK seeks to forge a new relationship with the world, raising the productivity of our economy has never been more important. It is productivity growth that will help spread prosperity across the UK and drive our economy through the uncertain times ahead. The success of the UK’s fastest growing firms will be vital in achieving this goal. Scale-up companies added almost £60 billion to the UK economy from 2010-13. And, in 2013, just 4% of fast-growing companies were responsible for nearly 20% of productivity growth in the UK economy – a truly remarkable statistic.
Highly productive firms are twice as common within the scale up community. Put simply, what matters to growth companies matters for the UK economy as a whole.
For growth companies of all sectors to succeed, it’s crucial we maintain the principle of openness in the UK economy. Access to the single market and the European workforce will be two of the most important aspects of future negotiations between the new UK Government and the European Union.
Meanwhile, there is much that can be done within the domestic agenda – particularly around skills. The Apprenticeship Levy remains both an opportunity and a concern – the Department for Education, with its new and expanded remit, will need to give serious consideration to the Levy’s current design and timetable.
Businesses have a vital role to play in building the skills of the UK workforce. The increasing demand for higher skilled people must be met by a willingness of firms to narrow the chasm between education and the workplace.
And on this there is welcome progress across the country. More businesses are supporting schools, offering careers advice and investing in workplace training. But firms need to continue demonstrating their commitment.
Elsewhere, the CBI has been vocal in urging the Government to take action on key infrastructure decisions, such as HS2 and aviation capacity. The recent green light for expansion at City Airport sends a positive signal, though making a decision on a new runway in the South East remains an urgent priority. Innovation will also be critical, and in the uncertain times ahead we need to encourage investment in new technologies. It will come as no secret to readers that the UK lags behind its international peers on research and development spending, which is vital for innovation. Raising our combined government and business R&D spend to 3% of GDP by 2020, coupled with exploring greater export opportunities, will help to fill the order books of growth companies. And maintaining access to finance will help them invest to take advantage of such opportunities. Making progress in these areas will give our growth firms the best possible environment in which to thrive, by driving productivity and helping to create an economy that works for everyone.
We face challenging times ahead – but there are opportunities as well. The UK remains a vibrant and open nation, and one of the best countries in the world to do business. Now is the time to take advantage of opportunities for productivity growth to make it even better."