Brexit changed a lot of things in Britain, including the government which led to the loss of any champion in Westminster for the Northern Powerhouse. But while the Northern economy is less visible politically there is still plenty happening, as revealed by this month Bessemer Society confab in Sheffield.
In a way the collapse of the government sponsored Northern Powerhouse can be considered a good thing. As I wrote last year while attending what turned out to be the second and last Northern Powerhouse conference “the ambition of the Northern Powerhouse seemed very limited, or perhaps non-existent. Building the kind of high-speed rail links that France, Germany and Spain have had for decades was about as ambitious as it ever got. I can’t see how playing catch up with the 1990’s is going to catapult the North into the big league of global economic powerhouses.”
Reflecting once more on the whole Northern Powerhouse scheme, it seems absurd that the ambition of the project didn’t extend beyond a bunch of hundred-year-old technologies. Whoever thought that the future was going to be built on concrete and steel? I make that two industrial revolutions behind.
So now that the feeding frenzy of large Infrastructure builders like Carillion has abated, it’s time to take a closer look at the Northern Economy, and the Bessemer Society will be doing this at one of the brightest spots in the region, the Advanced Materials Research Centre in Sheffield. We’ve called it a confab rather than a conference, so that it continues the same level of engagement, networking and open debate as the Bessemer dinners.
What I particularly like about Bessemer Society events is that they bring together a wide range of opinions from business, politicians and government, united by a common desire to stimulate the economy by creating and growing new companies based on innovation and advanced manufacturing. A few plates of food and glasses of wine later there is always a robust and informed debate. It’s a good opportunity for people in government to hear what the real issues in the technology economy are, something that can be, and is fed into future policy making. For the rest of us involved in high growth businesses it is also an opportunity to share best practice, whether in funding, exiting or doing business in China.