Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Today is St Andrew’s day, Scotland’s national day. By this time next year a referendum will have taken place on whether Scotland should become independent. The UK Government firmly believes that it is for people in Scotland to decide their own future through democratic debate and a referendum in September 2014. This is a good example of democracy in action and one which we are proud of. None of this is to say, though, that the UK Government is neutral on the question of independence. The UK Government firmly believes that Scotland is stronger as part of the UK, and that the UK is stronger with Scotland in it.
Whatever Scots think about the politics and economics we all take great pride in the history of our country, its amazing natural beauty, and the strength and character of its people.
On this day every year, Scots men and women around the world will take time to enjoy and relive pastimes rooted in the historical customs of Scotland, such as writing poems, Scottish dancing, and, for some, possibly even bagpipe playing – although as I career diplomat I will leave that last one to the professionals for the benefit of UK/Sweden bilateral relations!
In 2014, Scotland celebrates its “Year of Homecoming”, a year-long programme of events.
For foodies, there will be first-ever “Gastrofest!” that will explore the science of Scottish food and drink and provide a fantastic excuse to enjoy all its wonderfully fresh natural local ingredients. And May has been designated Whisky Month, so if you prefer your liquids to be distilled for a little longer then you know when to go!
For artistic readers, the Creative Mackintosh Festival 2014 will offer a great range of visual art and performances as well as exhibitions, music and dance for people of all ages. This year the event will take place in, and showcase, the unique architecture to be found in the many buildings in Glasgow, where I spent 4 happy years as a student, designed by the creative genius of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Occasionally, Scots are given the mistaken reputation of being a little dour. We Scots are determined to prove that perception wrong once and for all and there are no better examples to achieve that than the world-famous Edinburgh Arts Festival every August, and the Glasgow International Comedy Festival in November, which is the largest event of its kind in Europe and last time covered 411 shows at 46 venues!
And to finish with a sporting flourish, Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games next July/August, and the Ryder Cup golf championships will be at the world-famous Gleneagles Resort in September. So there really is something for everyone in Scotland in 2014.
One of the highlights of my time so far in Stockholm was the visit by The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in March 2012. Just over 18 months later, The Crown Princess and Prince Daniel are visiting London this week. The themes for the visits are very similar: young people, technology, climate change, entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Royal couple will visit an inner London school, and the UK’s IT hub at Tech City in the East end of London. They’ll meet the Mayor of London, and the Lord Mayor of the City of London. The Lord Mayor kindly gave two scholarships recently to bright young Swedes.
The Crown Princess and Prince Daniel will also visit Cambridge, to see a Skanska housing project, and, at the University, to discuss conservation, local and international sustainability solutions, international Governance and Human Rights.
The overlap in themes between the 2012 and 2013 visits is no surprise: it illustrates just some of the areas where Sweden and the UK, public and private sectors alike, have so much in common and so much to discuss.
It will be a privilege to accompany the Royal Couple and, once the visit is over, to have a cup of tea with the Dean of Trinity College, Cambridge, not just a brilliant academic, but the vicar that married my lovely wife and me!
As we blogged last week in this space, earlier this year, the British government, as part of its pro-EU, pro-reform agenda, commissioned a group of top business leaders, including from Marks and Spencer, Kingfisher and Diageo, to look at how to improve the business climate in Europe. You can view their report here. It includes principles on competitiveness to be placed at the heart of EU policy-making and specific ideas for change, including helping small business in particular by reducing the burden of unhelpful or unnecessary legislation.
The Prime Minister has welcomed the report and will be discussing it with other EU leaders at this week’s European Council. David Cameron said:
“It’s vital that business can take full advantage of the EU’s single market. But all too often EU rules are a handicap for firms, hampering their efforts to succeed in the global race. This report makes clear that there are lots of simple and practical ways to cut EU red tape and save businesses across Europe tens of billions of euros. We must now persuade our European partners and the European Commission to listen to business and to move faster to reform the way Europe regulates.”
Also ahead of the European Council, a group of British and other European business leaders have taken the initiative to write to EU heads of government about the need for more action to make the EU more competitive for business, particularly small businesses, by tackling excessive burdens that stifle growth and job creation and ensuring that regulation is pro-growth and pro-innovation.
Their letter calls for EU leaders to recognise the principles set out in the UK business task force report, including the importance of competitiveness, and to commit to identify where the burden of regulation can be reduced to allow business to generate the growth that all of Europe needs.
Guest blog by the Embassy’s Economic Attaché
One thing we hear a lot about these days is regulation. Regulation this, regulation that, it can be good or bad, national or international, too much or not enough. Views may depend on where you stand: employer or employee, big multinational or local SME, left or right or centre. But there does seem to be a growing consensus that regulation should be ‘smart’, or ‘better’, or ‘common sense’, or whatever you’d like to call it.
In EU circles the European Commission last week presented its REFIT programme, looking at areas where it made sense to regulate more, less or not at all. The UK welcomes this and has just carried out a similar exercise, but gone even further, with a Business-led Task Force set up by the Prime Minister launching a new report on cutting EU red tape.
Six top business leaders proposed a new set of principles that could be used as a checklist – or a kind of ‘common sense filter’ – against which new rules could be tested before they’re agreed. These so-called COMPETE principles would check, for example, that rules passed a Competitiveness test, and that they would be Measurable and Proportionate. (If you want to know what the rest of the letters stand for, you’ll just have to click on the link!)
In producing the report, the Task Force consulted 90 businesses and business organisations in the UK, and a further 20 business groups across Europe. They were asked what would help in creating jobs and growth. Their answers helped the Task Force compile 30 recommendations for cutting red tape, including giving employers and workers more flexibility to agree between themselves how certain issues in the labour market should work; improving guidance on the chemicals Directive REACH, so smaller companies find it easier to apply; and making it easier to provide services across borders within the EU.
The UK has already done a lot of work at home to reduce the impact of domestic regulation whilst preserving the benefits, for example, through the Red Tape Challenge. And no, that’s not a sporting event, but rather a consultative exercise that promotes open discussion on how to ensure regulation achieves its aims in the least burdensome way possible. The UK has also introduced a One-In, One-out (and now One-in, Two-out) principle, so for every new regulation introduced, one (or now two) old ones should be withdrawn.
The Business-led Task Force was keen to publish its findings now, given that European leaders will be talking about Better Regulation when they meet in Brussels on 24-25 October. We hope that this report can provide an important contribution to the debate.
So, to regulate or not to regulate? That is, of course, always the question …
Just over a year ago on a warm August afternoon, I paid a call on the Environment Minister, Lena Ek. She had an idea she wanted to share with the UK about the campaign for action on climate change.
Twelve months on, that idea has been launched as a major international effort in New York, just as the UN’s Climate Change panel (IPCC) has underlined the scale of the challenge with its fifth assessment report, published last week in Stockholm.
Lena Ek’s idea was an new assessment of the economic costs and benefits of tackling climate change, not least to show how decarbonisation of our economies could bring opportunities for business as well as costs.
The UK was positive to the idea and Sweden and we have now teamed up with Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, South Korea and Norway.
The New Climate Economy is the flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and will bring together a group of the world’s leading economists, policy and business experts to analyse and share the economic opportunities and risks that arise from climate change.
The project aims to give new, independent and expert insights on the debates around ‘green growth’. Its starting point will not be climate change policy, but economic growth and development and the key economic priorities of governments, cities, businesses and investors.
We do not know what the final report will say. And indeed that’s the point. This will be an independent analysis of the evidence without pre-conceived views or conclusions.
The basis for its research programme will be the continuing need for growth and development in the world today. It will focus on poverty reduction and job creation and the achievement of wider development priorities, including food security, energy access, urban planning, sustainable land use, natural resource efficiency, and cleaner air and water.
By consulting directly with, for example, finance ministries, business leaders, city mayors and major investors, the experts will analyse how the economic decisions affecting climate change are made. The findings will be used to show how policy and investments can take climate risks and opportunities into account in a better way.
The report, to be published in September 2014, will make recommendations to governments and the private sector on how to achieve lower-carbon economic growth and development.
The New Climate Economy project aims to drive economic action and to inform global economic debate in the run-up to the UN Secretary General’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change in 2014, and the International Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.
When our Business Minister, Vince Cable, was here this week, he talked a lot about the UK’s Industrial Strategy.
As he noted, to some ears this sounds rather old-fashioned. In fact it’s the opposite, it’s an attempt to create long term plans to tackle some of the sources of recent economic weakness and instability in the UK, and in doing so, perhaps, to learn lessons from more successful European and Asian experiences.
It’s intended to help rebalance the UK economy and make us even more attractive to foreign investors.
The Industrial Strategy is based on recognition that, to invest and grow, business needs long term certainty. The Strategy is based on a few principles: acting long term, in partnership with business, with a whole of Government approach to developing the confidence to invest. It includes five areas: key sectors, technologies, access to finance, skills and procurement.
We’ve focussed on 11 sectors based on size and opportunity for future economic growth and employment; barriers to growth; and scope for Government action – the Analysis behind this was published in September 2012.
So far we have published strategies for: ‘Life Science, Aerospace, Nuclear, Oil and Gas, Information Economy, Construction, Professional and Business Services, Automotive, Agri-tech, Education and Offshore Wind Energy.
We are investing in emerging technologies, where the UK has the depth of research expertise and the business capability to develop and exploit these. This includes £600 million to support eight great technologies.
Access to Finance: we are setting up a Government-backed Business Bank which will receive £1bn of new Government funding.
Skills: a £100m employer ownership fund has been created to co-finance investment in skills in key sectors and new technologies.
Procurement: we have updated procurement pipelines covering a range of sectors. The potential contract opportunities from Government and local authorities are now worth nearly £79 billion.
So, for investors in Sweden thinking about the UK, check out the investments we’re making in our economic future.
For the fifth consecutive year the UKTI team in Sweden organised a R&D Drug Development tour which brought together 16 UK research companies with players from the Swedish life science sector. This year, the tour moved away from Stockholm and emphasised other life science clusters such as the newly formed Medicon Village in Lund and Sahlgrenska Science Park in Gothenburg. Over the 2 day event the companies had 107 meetings.
The tour started off in Lund, where the 23 British delegates listened to presentations by Cristina Glad (Bioinvent AB), Åsa Sjöholm Timén (Spago Imaging AB) and Adam Bruce, founder of Tikomed, about the types of collaboration that they are looking for and explained their pipeline development. To facilitate clinical research in the UK Ravi Chana from the Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) gave a presentation on what help they can offer both Swedish and UK companies.
The tour then continued to Gothenburg where Lars Wiklund, the British Honorary Consul, hosted a dinner, with lively discussions, covering the future of Contract Research Organisations, the role of governments and the public sector in promoting collaboration, as well as patent expiry in the sector.
On the final day, the UK delegation met with companies from the Sahlgrenska Science Park network. Mattias Rehnberg (AstraZeneca R&D) highlighted the outsourcing needs that are experienced by large pharma companies. At the same time, the Park Annual Life Science Conference took place, which gave the UK delegates the opportunity to meet with 350 life science companies from all over Sweden.
The follow up has just started but we can already reveal that UK companies have already secured direct business worth up to £900,000, with bright prospects for the future. Through this activity UKTI Sweden was not only able to generate inward investment leads and trade wins, but also to make a contribution to delivering on the UK government’s Life Science strategy.
Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, arrives today for a 2-day programme. How to secure growth, trade and reform in Europe is on his agenda.
The UK and Sweden are close European partners: like-minded on many issues, including a shared ambition to deepen and strengthen the Single Market and extend free trade as part of a liberal, outward facing and competitive EU.
The Secretary of State will attend a number of meetings with politicians and industry leaders: Jacob Wallenberg, Jan Björklund, Annie Lööf, Birgitta Ohlsson and Mike Putnam of Skanska, among others.
He will emphasise to top Swedish investors and stakeholders the UK’s pro EU, pro-reform agenda, and highlight the attractiveness of the UK as an investment destination and a dynamic, innovative, and business friendly destination for Swedish and other Nordic companies.
The visit includes lunch with Svenskt Näringsliv and a seminar with the Stockholm chamber of commerce and the Ohlin institute.
The visit will culminate with a site visit to the New Karolinska Hospital (NKS) in Solna, where there will be an official signing of contracts worth almost £30m, won by two British construction companies, Astins and Measom.