Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng says that scale-up companies need to get finance quickly to achieve the “daunting and essential challenge of scaling up and levelling up”.
The discussion was centred around spreading scale-up investment across the country so that more regions can benefit.
“Most investments are made within 50km of where the investor is based,” said Stephen Welton, executive chairman of the BGF. He made the point that most investors are based in London and the South East, meaning that businesses in these areas get more investment.
“Where you put people is where you’ll see activity,” he added.
Connectivity and improving digital infrastructure were also key issues, especially now that remote working is set to become more common.
Kwarteng spoke of the Help to Grow programme, launching in June, to support business productivity. He also announced the Expert Advisory Council for Help to Grow. The council includes Confederation of British Industry (CBI) president, Lord Karan Bilimoria, Natwest CEO Alison Rose, and managing director of Goldman Sachs, Charlotte Keenan. The council will provide insight to make sure the programme meets the needs of small businesses.
“Covid represents an opportunity to build back better,” Kwarteng said.
During his part of the discussion, the business secretary stated that the levelling up and net zero agendas are linked. The Government’s ten-point plan creates opportunities for off-shore wind along with developing hydrogen and gigafactories. Nearly all investment will be related to the green agenda.
However, Mr Kwarteng said the details of how to spread the economy – like skills and levels of investment – will be left for another discussion.
During the Q&A, he said more of the skills focus needs to be on employers – working with them to find the skills they need. The government wants to commission a skills audit to find out where talent is nationally and regionally.
At the top of the event, prime minister Boris Johnson gave an opening speech touching on plans to make ‘record-breaking’ investments in rail, road and broadband while overhauling education for the over-16s to help businesses get skilled staff.