Kwasi Kwarteng’s Opening Plenary at the Future of Knowledge: 8 July 2021

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP gave an opening speech on the theme of Growing Together and the ways in which the government is focused on Building Back Better.

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to speak to an audience filled with so many brilliant minds and inquiring spirits today. The theme of today’s conference, Grow Together is one of course I whole heartedly support. The whole of government is focused on Building Back Better, but we can all only call it a true recovery if it works for people in every part of society, in every corner of the UK. Today, I want to speak about three things that I think will be critical to our recovery: innovation, skills and of course, levelling up.

The pandemic has highlighted the value of innovation. Without the brain power of British scientists who led efforts to create a vaccine, the freedoms we’re all enjoying today wouldn’t be possible. As we build our way back from the pandemic, innovation will help to help level up the UK by driving economic growth and creating skilled local jobs. The main example of this is the recent £75 million joint investment from government, business and academia to create technologies of the future. I recently visited a Knowledge Quarter partner, the Francis Crick Institute, which is joining up with British pharmaceutical firm GSK to accelerate medicine discovery. It was great to see innovation in action. The government’s new £800 million Advanced Research and Invention Agency will support the ground-breaking discoveries that can transform people’s lives. Our Innovation Strategy, published in the coming weeks, will take a strategic look at how innovation can drive economic growth and support increased business investment in R&D and innovation itself.

It’s also gratifying to see the Knowledge Quarter recognising that it needs to share its resources for the widest possible benefit. Building Back Better means spreading jobs, spreading skills and spreading opportunity further and faster than ever before. As far as jobs are concerned, our plan for jobs is helping support businesses to recover and create careers, generating opportunities through Kick Start, and sector work programmes for young people. As we continue to chart our path to net zero, the Green Jobs Taskforce will help us develop plans for 2 million quality green jobs by 2030.

In the skills arena, the government is also investing £2.5 billion in the National Skills Fund to help adults gain the valuable skills they need to improve their job prospects. We’re committed to ensuring that everyone in the UK who wants to start growing their own business can do so, regardless of their background.

We have the Help to Grow Management Scheme which will help 30,000 small enterprising businesses learn new skills, reach new customers and boost their profitability. Since 2012, The British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme has delivered over 484,000 loans, supporting entrepreneurs with over £740 million of funding.

This pandemic has hit communities hard and so we can all do something to mitigate that damage. The prime minister will publish the landmark Levelling Up White Paper later this year, focusing on improving living standards, growing the private sector, and increasing and spreading opportunity.

There is of course, the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, which will invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life, including regenerating high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.

The Knowledge Quarter, as you know has a small physical radius, but it has an unparalleled reach both back into our history and towards our future. The impact your members have on society cannot be overstated. I’d like to thank you, and urge you to keep up the excellent work you’re doing.

For our part, the government is ensuring that our recovery is bolstered by innovation. The quality jobs, skills, and real opportunity spread are unlocking the full potential of all people and places in our country, and that Build Back Better finally means Build Back Better for everybody in the UK.