London, Asharq Al-Awsat- This week has been breath-taking here in London. I was at the Olympic Park for two days this week and the atmosphere is electrifyingly good with people from all over the world smiling and enjoying a magnificent event. This is a great moment for Britain and the country has united for ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. The opening ceremony certainly was an outstanding example of the creativity that is such an important part of Britain. However, this is not an article about sport but about business.
The first event at the British Business Embassy in Lancaster House was the Creative Services Summit showcasing Britain’s world-class ‘creative industries’: advertising, media, design and architecture. There were three themed sessions – Creativity and Global Branding, Creativity and Digital Technology and Creativity and Design-led Innovation – which focused on the contribution of creativity to business success. The following day saw the Creative Content Summit with a programme of insightful sessions on the UK’s expertise and experience in commercialising creativity in the Fashion, Film, Games, Music, Publishing and TV sectors.
The events highlighted the importance of behavioural economics; how advertising can influence mass behaviour for the greater good; the role of architecture in urban regeneration; how the designed environment influences how we live and behave; and how design and innovation can help businesses keep ahead of the game while still being good corporate citizens.
Creativity is one of Britain’s enduring and effective business characteristics leading to superiority of many premium British products and services. Whilst the Creative Industries Summits were about sectors covering film, publishing, fashion, advertising and architecture, the point is that all industry is creative, not just these ‘creative’ sectors. There is more creativity in a Dyson vacuum cleaner than a Stella McCartney dress. There is more creativity and ingenuity in a Jaguar car or a Rolls-Royce engine than the adverts that sell them.
The originality of what goes on in the heads of scientists working for GlaxoSmithKline inventing new drugs is at least as outstanding as what goes on in our film studios, and in some cases is streets ahead of it. The appliance of science, to borrow an old advertising slogan, which goes on in a vast array of UK companies is awe inspiring.
Creativity is not the preserve of what you see on the catwalk, on the television, in the cinema or in an art gallery. British creativity lies at the heart of all our innovation and entrepreneurialism which drives our entire economy. It is creativity that will see Britain through the market conditions that are impairing most economies.
Creativity has always been a part of music, literature, poetry, art and design. It is also embedded in British industry. Over the centuries British inventors are recognized for conceiving many products: disc brakes, Portland cement, DNA fingerprinting, the electric motor, hovercraft, jet engines, penicillin, polyester, radar, stainless steel, the steam engine, the World Wide Web, vertical take-off aircraft, the iPod, and literally thousands of items that we all use every day.
The Global Business Summit on ICT was three days later and was a not-to-be-missed occasion for technology leaders from across the world to hear firsthand about British innovation and creativity, and to engage with British industry leaders and businesses. The Summit featured a number of panel-led seminars focusing on key ICT fields. Covering areas such as ICT Enabling London 2012; Broadband; Cloud & SaaS; Digital Innovation; Smart Infrastructure: Video, Image Recognition & AR; and Next-Generation Mobility, the panels included senior representatives of major companies and organisation such as ARM, BBC, BT, Cisco, CSR, Huawei Europe, IBM, Imperial College, LOCOG, Logica, Qualcomm Europe, Samsung Electroincs UK, Sophos and Telefَnica o2 UK.
The Global Business Summit on Advanced Engineering will be held on 10 August 2012. It will offer international business leaders invaluable insights about Britain’s world-class capabilities in this high-growth sector. Opening with a Ministerial keynote address, the Summit will see senior representatives of major global companies such as Airbus, Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, McLaren Racing, Nissan, Rolls-Royce, Siemens and Spirit AeroSystems participate in panel-led discussions about the strength of the UK as a trading partner and the investment location of choice.
In 2012 Advanced Engineering encompasses all that is great about British manufacturing. Be it in aerospace, automotive or any other field of engineering, Britain possesses world-class capability in advanced engineering. The wings and engines of so many aircraft are designed and manufactured in Britain and our automotive sector is taking a lead in the development of low-carbon vehicle technologies.
Britain is still a leading creative nation and will continue to be. That is why Chinese and Indian companies are so keen to buy into British businesses. It is also a massive opportunity for Middle East investors and manufacturers – those who wish to invest in the most advanced technologies.
Innovation has played a major part in the planning of the London 2012 programme. London is fundamentally different from other Olympic Games’ host destinations in that it has planned the event in reverse. The dominant concept was a focus on how the sites and structures will be used afterwards and how they will be integrated into neighbouring communities. London 2012 was designed and built for legacy, which happens to be accommodating the Olympic Games first! The word “legacy” is used in many ways in relation to the development of London’s Olympic Village. Given that the Games are a catalyst for urban development, investment in infrastructure and regeneration, the plan is that this will widen the geographic and mental map of London from West Ends to East Sides. This idea is not new to the people of London where the precedent was set at Canary Wharf where a former dock was transformed into a successful global business district during the 1980s and 1990s.
London’s housing shortage also was factored into the planning, through the construction of 12,000 new homes. The housing has been designed to accommodate families and individuals and was retrofitted for the athletes, not the other way round. The IOC doesn’t want the officials and athletes to cook so 3,000 apartment units were built with an empty kitchen space used as a temporary bedroom. And after the Games, kitchens will be added and some will be sold at below-market prices.
After the Games are finished, the presence of the Olympics, which only lasts a few weeks, is being seized as an opportunity for one of the largest urban renewal operations in Europe. An event like this is an opportunity that only comes once. The tremendous investment that goes with it is a catalyst for long-term upgrading. The key strategy had to be well-thought out in advance.
This sums up why London’s Olympic model will be the one to emulate in future Games.
In a speech to the first global investment conference at Lancaster House, Mr. Cameron said, “My message today is very simple: Britain is back open for business, and we are committed to supporting global growth with open trade between our nations.
During the subsequent British Business Embassy evening receptions the message is that Britain is the most open society in the world. Great Britain continues to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) than any other European country, generating more than a thousand new jobs each week. Whatever sector you are in there are investment opportunities, especially in the Olympic boroughs of London.
With low taxes, less regulation and a talented workforce Britain really is open for international business.
John Davie is a visiting professor at London Metropolitan Business School and chairman of Altra Capital