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East of England

Will the UK be able to Prosper in this New World?

15 May 2017

Economic revolution

“The next economic revolution is well underway!” So said, the Institute of Director’s Chief Economist James Sproule, when he visited Ipswich to speak at a recent Suffolk IoD breakfast.

James’ annual economic pilgrimage to the county town of Suffolk has become a ‘must attend’ event for local members and he failed to disappoint.

Describing how previous revolutions, ‘Agarian’ and ‘Industrial’, were fuelled by Land and Capital respectively, we are now in the early stages of the ‘Intellectual Revolution’; facilitated by the rapid diffusion of information - made possible by technology - and fuelled by intellectual ability.

“For us individually, and collectively, to cope and thrive with the Intellectual Revolution’s challenges and opportunities, we must make the necessary economic reforms. This includes fostering entrepreneurism, introducing mechanisms to cope with our debt burden, as well as developing geo-political ‘fleet of foot’ to deal with potential trade wars.” James argued.

James was cautiously optimistic about the UK’s ability to prosper in this new world. He painted a picture of our current situation, together with reasons for caution. He praised the vibrant entrepreneurism in the UK; a reason to be cheerful, but not complacent. And he had some Do’s and Don’ts for government that would help and hinder respectively along the way.

Brexit naturally was a prominent topic and prompted many questions from the audience. On Elizabeth Keibler-Ross’ process of grief, James placed the country at the end of the Anger stage and about to enter the Bargaining stag. However, he doubted that our EU negotiating partners are as advanced as we in the grieving process - perhaps an underlying reason the negotiations will be challenging.

“When it comes to Entrepreneurism, the UK is the strongest in the EU, but is somewhat of a laggard when it comes to our position on the global league table.” James said.

A telling statistic was that 4% of EU Venture Capital investment account for 50% of their returns, a stark reminder of the risks of early stage businesses and investing. Intrapreneurship (entrepreneurism in existing companies) should not be forgotten, and that James feels, is perhaps a more fruitful avenue to pursue, than a fixation on improving national productivity, as the former will help the latter.

This breakfast forms part of a regular event programme delivered by Suffolk IoD aimed at members and their guests.

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