Why boosting connectivity should be top of the election agenda
30th May 2017
Jim Rogers, practice leader at Grant Thornton Thames Valley, outlines his wish list for the new government to support the continued growth of a vibrant, productive economy. With change comes opportunity, so ahead of the next general election on 8th June, we have developed a manifesto, identifying some key areas that we believe the new government should prioritise, to ensure that our economy is supported. One of the key issues for us to tackle is how we can help connect the Thames Valley’s thriving large businesses with its ambitious start-ups to foster innovation. Creating purposeful connections between businesses of all sizes will be essential to allow the region’s economy to flourish. This was the focus of our recent Thames Valley Live Lab event, held as part of a national inquiry that brought together the region’s representatives from academia, business, the public sector, and arts and culture. The goal was to discuss how we can help businesses in the Thames Valley create connections with a purpose and make it a fantastic place to live and work. In the UK – and especially in Oxford – there is an opportunity to combine technology where we have cutting edge capability with more established sectors to create new scale-up disruptors. This could enable the UK to be at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Encouraging the development of ‘collab-innovation’ activities, bringing together universities, smaller start-ups, larger corporates and specific expertise will help commercialise research and partnerships and scale-up businesses. One way that we would suggest this activity could be encouraged, is to reintroduce an updated corporate venturing tax relief scheme to incentivise UK corporates to invest in smaller British businesses, and review the disincentives to corporate venturing with action to remove these. In 2010 the government abolished tax incentives for corporate venturing, and at Grant Thornton, we have identified a number of tax and accounting disincentives that could be removed. Access to finance will also be incredibly important. As well as impact investing, corporate venturing can help with larger corporates investing some of their balance sheet in fair partnerships to scale-up smaller British businesses. The UK’s largest corporates hold £224 billion in cash on balance sheets but currently invest less than £300 million in corporate venturing. Widening the use of supply chain finance and encouraging larger corporates to leverage their balance sheet will improve access to finance for smaller British suppliers, helping to develop innovation, export and supply chain resilience. In the face of an ever-accelerating global change in the economy, the government must ensure that we have a long-term plan for UK and international growth that unlocks the full potential of the UK as a positive contributor to global economy. If we can help the Thames Valley’s businesses collaborate and tap into the region’s potential, we can shape a creative and innovative whole which is greater than the sum of the parts, making it a place where dynamic businesses can thrive.

About the author

Grant Thornton
Jim has experience in fast growing, privately owned PE backed international businesses, as well as in helping fast growing and ambitious businesses build and realise value.

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