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CBI President speech to Mansion House
CBI PRESIDENT, BRIAN MCBRIDE: MANSION HOUSE SPEECH 27 MARCH.
Thank you, Janine. And thank you, Lord Mayor for your insightful remarks, and the opportunity to speak here tonight. It was also great to hear from the Secretary of State earlier.
Now, the CBI and City of London Corporation offices are just round the corner from each other – two vital business organisations with much in common… But when it comes to catering, I’m not sure our kitchen can match up to this.
I’m also conscious of being the only thing standing between you all and dessert. So, I’ll keep my remarks short and to the point.
I want to talk briefly about the growing consensus on the recipe for growth, and how we get what I think is the last ingredient we need – confidence.
I’ve spent my career in business helping tech firms grow and scale.
And I took the job as CBI President, because I was impressed by their belief that this was the moment – after Brexit, just after the pandemic – for the UK to do just that.
Of course, a lot’s happened since then, nationally and globally... You can’t predict the future can you?
But what’s been great, is spending a lot of that time at events like this.
I’ve been able to meet businesses like many of yours – and every time, I’m inspired by your resilience, your determination and your ambition to grow.
THE INNOVATION PRIZE
And at the CBI, we’ve spent the last three years finding and pushing the areas where the UK can lead and seize the real economic prizes out there for us.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you one of the biggest is tech and innovation.
Michelle rightly talked about the transformative impact AI is having in the UK – and how we can unlock the full power of the sector.
I want to mention another vital UK sector – Fintech. It’s already worth over £11bn – 10 per cent of global market share.
It’s our secret weapon – the spark plug to set off the full power of the City of London and the financial services sector in the global race for growth.
And as Michelle mentioned, our strengths in unicorn companies and R&D give us a competitive tech story to tell – alongside the US and China.
That’s what strategic advantage looks like.
But it takes vigilance to maintain that.
And that’s why I’ve made using our strength in tech and innovation to power growth the focus of my CBI Presidency.
So, I’m delighted, that we’ve now got Michelle’s Department – to ensure the UK’s capabilities in Science, Innovation and Tech can really power the growth our country needs – across industries and markets.
Like in decarbonisation. From electric vehicles to carbon capture and storage, tech is at the heart of green growth.
It’s how we set off this country’s natural green advantages – like wind.
In fact, we’ve already installed the second-highest offshore wind capacity in the world. Having spent a few days in St Andrews last week, my only surprise is we’re not the highest!
And UK firms are primed for the race to net zero.
THE RECIPE FOR GROWTH:
But what I’m also hearing from business leaders, are the barriers to them investing, growing and seizing these prizes.
Many are having to divert cash to deal with rising energy costs, higher wage bills and tax rates.
Then even where businesses can see beyond immediate challenges when they look at our political and economic landscape, there just hasn’t been the certainty and continuity they need to invest.
At the CBI, we’re committed to turning that round.
So – what’s that going to take?
Well, the good news is there’s now consensus from the Prime Minister and Government and Keir Starmer and Labour about the vital importance of growth.
And after the uncertainty of last Autumn, the Prime Minister and Chancellor have brought much-needed stability.
Most importantly, there’s also emerging consensus on the recipe for growth.
It’s higher levels of business investment, it’s an optimised labour market, and it’s the UK getting ahead in future innovation markets.
GETTING THE RECIPE RIGHT:
There were welcome moves on all three in the Spring Budget.
First, business investment. I’m personally delighted the Chancellor worked with the CBI to announce a three-year 100% investment deduction to replace the Super Deduction.
We’re also glad he says he’ll consider making it permanent in future – a commitment we’ll follow up.
And Lord Mayor, can I take a moment to commend the Powerful Pensions report you’ve just launched.
Turning our growing UK DC pension funds into productive finance – will play a big part in driving the investment we need to get ahead in high-growth areas like biotech, life sciences and of course Fintech.
And we’re keen to get involved in your Financing Our Future initiative to unleash the full investment power of the City for the good of the whole country.
Next, labour market and skills – which I know is still one of the biggest things keeping CEOs up at night.
So the Chancellor was completely right to focus on knocking down the barriers for those who want to work, but can’t.
And I was – again – very pleased he listened to us on the need for bold childcare reform to help working parents struggling with sky-high childcare costs.
Third is tech and future innovation markets.
I don’t need to tell you there are so many opportunities here – from getting ahead in new markets to tech uptake across the economy.
And the spur will be clarity from Government. Nearly two-thirds of firms told us they’d up their investment in innovation if the Government set out their long-term tech priorities – with funding to match.
So, it was great the Chancellor announced 12 new investment zones – each backed by up to £80m over five years – to boost high-growth tech industries. Modelled on the CBI’s own clusters work.
Great too that he’s starting to put long-term funding (and strategy) behind the big bet technologies where the UK can get ahead – like quantum.
As well as committing to additional tax relief for R&D intensive SMEs.
WHAT WE NEED NOW:
Now, I think we can build on that.
First, by increasing that support, and making it easier for more R&D-intensive SMEs to access and by looking at ways to help firms across all sectors adopt new tech to drive productivity.
There’s also a great opportunity for UK R&D if we can associate with Horizon Europe – fast.
And anticipation is also building towards a UK Government ‘Green Day’ widely expected this Thursday when we hope to see strong signals from Government that will re-establish the UK as a net zero leader.
With competition from the US and EU intensifying significantly, there really isn’t a moment to lose.
And at the CBI, we’re doing our part too.
Whether that’s through our Be More Green toolkit to help firms innovate in green growth or our continuing work to help businesses stay resilient in tough times – and prep for future growth.
I’m most excited though, about the project I’m leading to help the UK’s great $1bn unicorn companies transform this decade into what we’re calling ‘decacorns’ $10bn companies that can unleash growth – and jobs – right across the country.
We’ve been speaking to founders, VCs and more about what it takes to scale – from talent and regulation to capital and international growth.
The ideas and energy we’ve seen are truly inspiring. And I encourage all of you here to get involved too – whether you’re a decacorn, a unicorn, a ‘soonicorn’ – or any other kind of business animal.
And after what Michelle said about building a pipeline of tech scale-ups, I think there’s a great opportunity for us to put our ideas together and work to realise that dream of making the UK a tech and innovation-powered, high-growth economy.
So we know the recipe for what we want. And I’ve just laid out some of the places we can source that all-important final ingredient – confidence.
Now I want to finish by saying – I know business has been through tough times. You’ve told me, and I’ve been there.
It’s been a tumultuous year for business and society. Yet, no matter how hard it has been for our society and its individuals day in, day out, it’s business that has made people’s lives a little easier by supplying a job, a pay packet, the ability to feed, clothe, heat and entertain their families.
Regardless of politics or global events, it’s what we do, every day.
And I keep seeing at events like this – where business comes together – huge cause for optimism too. The ambition, strength and vision in this room – and on this stage.
I’ve looked at the scale potential of a lot of firms in my time. And I’m certain that in the UK, if we pull together – Government and business, business and business – we’ve got what it takes to create not just a UK Silicon Valley, but a global growth powerhouse.
So – let’s get on with it.
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