Often the nay-sayers claim that Britain has lost the entrepreneurialism and zeal that gave us the industrial revolution and the digital revolution and we are destined to decline.
But my experience as a judge on the Queen’s Awards Advisory Committee was that this could not be further from the truth. The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise winners demonstrate that the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking in British industry. The hundreds of applications from companies across the whole of the UK and in every sector show that British business is getting on with the job of innovating, exporting, and growing.
As Deputy Director-General at the CBI, I am familiar with the hard work, ingenuity and excellence that British companies have to offer. Even so, the range of businesses that applied for the Queen’s Award, their solutions to the everyday – and not-so-everyday – problems that we face, and the sheer determination to expand has been eye-opening. And it is not just the big companies leading the way: we had applicants with just a handful of employees providing world-beating products in some of the most complex areas of technical science.
All the winners were companies that demonstrated commercial success through outstanding achievements in new innovations, sustainable development or export growth. For instance, one winner, Renishaw, is a world leader in precision machining and the design and manufacture of motion control and spectroscopy products, achieving much greater accuracy than has previously been possible through innovative solutions. Another winner, Fevertree, are better known for their tonic water (at least to gin fans), and have driven growth through exports. By focusing on brand value in core markets and developing new ones, Fevertree doubled their exports in a year.
It is this sort of achievement that we need to see more of and I hope the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise can encourage it. If we are going to grow our economy for the prosperity of all, we need to rebalance towards commercial investment and exports. And while the Queen’s Award winners remind us of the entrepreneurial spirit of Britain, we should not remain complacent. There is more that can be done to help boost exports, innovation and growth, like a strong industrial strategy that supports innovation and supply chains and export policies to help businesses break into new markets. The CBI will continue to work with business and the government to help get these in place.