GREAT Festival of Innovation announces strategic trade partnership

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Secretary of State of International Trade, Dr Liam Fox has announced a strategic trade partnership at the GREAT Festival of Innovation to further bolster value for the economies of both the UK and Hong Kong. The announcement was made alongside Hong Kong SAR chief executive Carrie Lam as the Festival was officially welcomed to Hong Kong (pictured).

International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: “The UK and Hong Kong have strong ties because of our shared history and our close people to people links. Britain’s long standing commitment to Hong Kong is as strong as ever. But our relationship is not just based on history – it is innovative, forward looking, and dynamic, with excellent prospects for the future.

“As an international economic department, we want to further deepen our trade collaboration, and work together as champions of global trade. This Joint Statement is an example of our shared intention to continue to move forward together.”

In a series of sessions today, the future of global trade, the way businesses interact with their employees and the effects technological advances will impact jobs were among the hot topics as the GREAT Festival of Innovation began.

Hosted by the UK Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT), the four-day event aims to get to the heart of the big issues shaping the way we will all live in years to come, as well as helping forge closer trading links between the UK and Asia.

Day One saw the launch of DIT report, Rethinking the Future, Collaboratively, which highlighted the key ways businesses can stay ahead of the game in a time of intense technological change – along with details of how UK firms are among the most progressive when it comes to rethinking the future.

Elsewhere, the FinTech Futures sought to demystify technology such as blockchain and cyrptocurrencies, with Jean Claude Farah, President of global payments at Western Union; Alex Kong, founder of TNG Wallet; and Dr Catherine Mulligan, Co-director of cryptocurrency research at Imperial College, explaining how trade can be transformed in the virtual world.

Internet retail pioneer Brent Hoberman was one of the many star names in the spotlight. Now head of tech networking organisation FoundersForum, the co-founder of dot-com giant Lastminute.com, gave his view in the keynote session on the pressing issues facing business from artificial intelligence.

Leadership was another big topic today in the Miller Theatre. Antonia Romeo, Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Trade, revealed her tips for teamwork and co-operation, all gained during an illustrious career in the UK’s Civil Service.

Similarly, Lord Price, a former UK Government trade minister, gave his thoughts on engaging the workforce. Price held a raft of senior roles at the John Lewis Partnership during his career – a company recognised for its employee relations. He was joined by experts including Foster + Partners head of design David Nelson for workplaces of the future, in a discussion on the changing nature of office space and working practices.

Addressing how businesses large and small cultivate a culture of innovation, Mark Dodgson, professor of innovation studies at the University of Queensland, explained: “Businesses must give their people permission to be excited by new ideas and set out that experimentation and risk taking is the normal. As well as successes being celebrated, failure has to be OK.”

Delegates also had a chance to see technology in action from some of the UK’s leading talents. Ben Scott-Robinson, from British start-up agri-tech business Small Robot Company – ably assisted by his robot Rachael – demonstrated how scaled-down machinery could transform food production by doing away with the need for big farm machinery.

De Montfort University (DMU) Leicester – was another popular attraction for an entertaining chat about the value of working overseas through their #DMUglobal programme. Their session looked at how businesses benefit from the talent of tomorrow.

For more information, visit great.gov.uk/innovation or follow the hashtag #GREATinnovation.