Wales - An Innovation Nation

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb's speech to the UK Investment Summit 2014.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Secretary of State Stephen Crabb said:

Good afternoon and welcome back. It is my pleasure as Secretary of State for Wales to welcome you to this summit.

The NATO Summit was the largest ever meeting of world leaders to take place on UK soil, and it shone a global spotlight on Wales in a way we had never experienced before.

It was a challenge for us in Wales to show the world what we can achieve and I am delighted to say we rose to that challenge – and those leaders returned home speaking in glowing terms about this fantastic venue at the Celtic Manor, the quality of the Welsh food and service, and the hospitality and warmth of the people of Wales.

The only complaint I heard was from one Foreign Minister who told me that the Summit should have been a day longer so he could have had brought his golf clubs and got onto the world famous Ryder Cup golf course – but he did promise to come back with his clubs on another occasion.

Over those three days in September we demonstrated to the world that Wales is a strong, confident, outward-looking nation.

And I am determined that we should build an ambitious and lasting legacy from that Summit.

The legacy is this – to continue to put in place the right foundations and framework to support a dynamic 21st century economy where ambition, knowledge and innovation are at the heart of Welsh success.

It is a central economic truth that knowledge drives innovation, innovation drives productivity, and productivity drives growth.

Put more simply, innovation is what turns ideas into invoices.

We all know that businesses with a track record of innovation export more and generate higher growth than those that do not. And what is true for an individual company is true for a whole nation too.

UK as a place for innovation

I am proud of the Britain’s track record in innovation.

While we have just 0.9% of the world’s population, we account for more than 3% of global R&D expenditure, and we are home to more than 4% of the world’s researchers.

The UK has won 78 Nobel prizes in science and technology, more than any other country in Europe and second only to the United States.

British and Welsh scientists and engineers changed and shaped the world in which we live today – and we are determined that they should continue to do so in the years that lie ahead – for that is the only sure foundation for economic success in the unforgiving tough global race we are now in.

But we start from excellent foundations.

Britain is a country of enterprise and discovery, of liberty and the law, of the wide open seas and global free trade…

…a country where the happy marriage of business and science has delivered to the world enormous economic and social benefits.

That relationship between business and science is at the heart of this Government’s long term plan for rebalancing the British economy – and we are determined that Wales should be at the heart of it.

Because in recent years, while most of the world has been looking elsewhere, the economy of Wales has been undergoing some dramatic transformations.

From the growth of higher value manufacturing and engineering in the aerospace, automotive and defence sectors, to an emerging life sciences hub where researchers are at the very cutting edge of bio-technology, there is a growing private sector here in Wales that understands that the 21st century belongs to those companies that can harness innovation, knowledge and technology in the marketplace.

A week ago I was in my office transfixed in front of a television transfixed by the images being beamed 300 million miles through space from the Philae space probe that European scientists had landed on a comet travelling at 36,000 miles an hour. And, I had two feelings. One I was hoping that there were kids in communities up and down the Wales transfixed by this and it would inspire them to seek knowledge and careers in science and technology. And as a Welshman, I felt incredibly proud to know that Welsh innovation helped make it possible – with the coverglass components on board the Rosetta satellite being manufactured by Qioptiq in North Wales – cut from ultra robust ribbons of glass, as thin as a human hair.

There are at least two other Wales based companies in this room this afternoon – CGI and Airbus who were also involved in that amazing achievement.

We have world-leading products and companies here in Wales. Wales now develops and manufactures the most technologically advanced composite aircraft wings produced anywhere in the world. Over half of the world’s commercial aircraft are now flying using those wings made by Airbus in north Wales.

And we were all delighted to that airbus has today announced £48 million for their north Wales site in Broughton. An enormous vote of confidence in the hardworking people who are building the wings for the largest aircraft in the world – right here in Wales.

This investment in their research and development will keep north Wales at the cutting edge of the global aerospace industry.

But Wales has so many more success stories.

Wales has a thriving semiconductor hub here in south Wales with many of the global leaders in wafer technology based here. IQE for example manufacture the tiny wafer cells that support half of the world’s mobile phones.

The collaboration between Swansea University and Tata Steel is developing the buildings of tomorrow, capable of producing their own energy.

And this is just one of many examples of how the Higher Education sector in Wales is now highly tuned to the needs of industry and business. Universities in Wales are not just pushing the boundaries of intellectual knowledge, they are working hand in hand with business to solve innovation challenges for commercial markets.

The new Life Sciences Hub in Cardiff is combining the excellence of academia in Wales with major international healthcare companies such as GE Healthcare.

Wales as the place for innovation I have touched on only a few examples but I hope you have all visited the fantastic stands and displays, showcasing some of the most advanced innovations in the world – which help to demonstrate why Wales is such an exciting place to invest at this time.

Wales benefits enormously from the increasing competitiveness of the UK economy and the access to European and global markets. As the Prime Minister said earlier, we now have one of the most competitive tax and regulatory regimes anywhere in the world.

This week the Global Entrepreneurship Index ranked the UK the ‘most entrepreneurial country in Europe’ - the UK’s highest ranking since the index was created.

Wales is benefitting too from our investment plans of over £100 billion in major transport and digital infrastructure projects – infrastructure that will bind Wales even closer into the heart of UK and European economic activity and improve further our ability to move people, goods and services.

The electrification of the Great Western mainline, coupled with the current Crossrail project, will slash journey times between Wales’s capital city and Europe’s most important financial centres. You will be able to jump on the train from Cardiff and be in Canary Wharf within two hours.

Our investment to improve western rail links to Heathrow will also cut half an hour from the journey time between Wales and one of the world’s most important airports.

We are also currently investing over £1.7 billion in delivering superfast broadband to 95% of homes and businesses in the UK by 2017. Providing you with the tools and technology you need to link with your customers anywhere in the world.

So you see, we believe in supporting innovation through actions, not just words. That’s why we’re protecting £4.6 billion for science and research programmes every year. It’s why we’re increasing the budget of Innovate UK by £185 million to support new innovations from business - raising the total to more than £500m – and doubling capital science funding for next year.

And it’s why the largest overall increase in business research and development expenditure in the UK last year was in Wales – up £100m – almost a 40% increase on the year before because we don’t underestimate Wales’ potential.

As a Government we are getting right behind businesses across the UK – delivering a long term economic plan to rebalance growth across our nations and support the wealth of entrepreneurial talent that I see every day in Wales.

People ask me “What is the Wales office?

The Wales Office is the UK Government in Wales.

When the Prime Minister made me Welsh Secretary, he said ‘speak up for Wales in Whitehall around the Cabinet table’. And that is what I do.

The people in my department are working across Whitehall, championing the needs of people and businesses in Wales, influencing government departments and helping shape policy so it benefits Wales.

We are a problem-solving department. We are fighting for Welsh interests in Whitehall. But we are also the UK Government in Wales - explaining to businesses in Wales what the UK Government is doing and helping businesses in Wales to grow.

If you want to access UK Government support - talk to us at the Wales Office

If you want support from UK government, help from UKTI to expand into new markets, or break down any barrier to your investment plans or you need contacts- talk to the Wales Office

And if you have any problems accessing UK Government departments, my team of people - many of them here in this room - can help you solve this and our door is always open.

I want to be a strong voice for Wales at the heart of Government - and a strong presence for Government in the heart of Wales.

I want to be proud of our past and ambitious for our future.

I want Wales to be at the centre of the new innovations that change the way we do business and the way we live.

I want businesses from Wales to be developing the solutions for tomorrow.

I want each and every one of you to be clear that Wales is a great place to invest. We have the skills, drive and determination to thrive in the global market.

No-one demonstrates this global vision, and the importance of being able to harness innovation, more than the person I have the great honour of handing over to Sir Terry Mathews.

As the visionary creator and owner of this wonderful venue, I am immensely grateful to Sir Terry and his team for hosting today’s summit.

The Celtic Manor is undoubtedly one of the top destinations for global events.

But it is of course in the field of innovation and technology where Sir Terry has established his international reputation.

From his first start up of Mitel, he established an impressive portfolio of companies.

As with most great innovations, he was able to see the next market opportunity ahead of the rest and Newbridge Networks soon became a major market player in data networking.

Absorbed into Alcatel in 2000, the company retains a strong base in south Wales and continues to generate start-up companies and new innovations from its base just across the road.

I am delighted that Sir Terry has agreed to come and share with us his approach to embracing technology and his views about Wales as a place to start and grow a successful business.

Published 21 November 2014