Optimism for the Region’s Growth at Kent & Medway Business Summit

The Kent & Medway Business Summit returned to campus on Wednesday 27 April 2022 welcoming crowds of local delegates, keynote speakers and a plethora of presentations, workshops and debates.

The event, held in partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors, Locate in Kent and sponsored by Kreston Reeves, Thomas Snell and Passmore and British Business Bank was held at Kent Business School’s multi-award-winning Sibson Building. 

Host, Deborah Turner, from the Federation of Small Businesses introduced proceedings before Professor Karen Cox, Vice Chancellor of Kent made her opening remarks, reflecting on how happy she was to see people ‘in 3D’.

Kitty Ussher, Chief Economist at the Institute of Directors, followed with a well-received presentation entitled The UK Economy: Insights and trends for 2022 and beyond. The presentation, based on data from the Office of National Statistics, posed a tentatively positive picture of the future of our county.

“Although there are lots of risks, the consensus view is that the economy will grow in 2022,” said Ms Ussher who shared informtion through a series of easy-to-understand graphs. “Keep close to your customers, the weakest are the most vulnerable, the picture could be very different in two years’ time,” she concluded.

Kitty Ussher presented a tentatively optimistic picture of the economy

Richard Hicks, Director of Place and Deputy Chief Executive at Medway Council, offered up the exciting innovations planned for the region, claiming he felt ‘unashamedly upbeat’ about the future and regeneration in Medway.

“Medway is a great place to live, to work to learn,” he said before unveiling the plans for ‘city’ of Medway Chatham and regeneration projects at the award-winning Rochester Riverside.  “This is all about paving the way for a new rural town in Medway with placemaking at its heart.”

Richard Hicks explained the future of innovation and placemaking in Medway

Councillor Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council, gave a presentation entitled Productive, Sustainable, Inclusive: Kent’s Economic Strategy towards 2030 in which he presented Kent County Council’s vision over the next eight years including the recovery phase of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis coupled with the war in Ukraine.

Thanet Parkway Station project and its benefit for the region, alongside Discovery Park in Sandwich Kent which will generate an ‘ecosystem for life science businesses’ were highlighted as exciting prospects for the future.

Cllr Gough also explained the council’s key plans to ‘reconnect’ students who experienced ‘learning loss’ over the pandemic, particularly the most disadvantaged students.

“Kent, compared with the southeast as a whole is below average in terms of qualification levels which feeds through to incomes and productivity. This is a long-haul process of change,” he explained.

Roger Gough presenting
Roger Gough of KCC unveiled the future plans of the council

Andy Martin, Director of Communications and Strategy of London Resort Company Holdings presented and answered questions on the bid on the Swanscombe Peninsula and the factors involved in its recent rejection.

Attendees asked plenty of questions and showed enthusiasm for the knowledge and perspective offered by the talks.

‘It was such a wealth of knowledge and pertinent information being shared to guide attendees on expectations and strategic alignment with current business realities and beyond,’ remarked Project Manager at Balfour Beatty Lola Osideko-Johnson, who is also studying an MBA at Kent Business School.

“Kitty Ussher’s talk on the U.K. economy was fascinating,” said Samuel Cornelius Merrell, who is studying BSc Marketing and currently on his Selfie year, having been invited to the Summit by ASPIRE, said: ‘I listened to the panel discussion on finance and the journey to net zero, it inspired me to look into what else I could do to reduce my carbon footprint for my small business.’

“Everybody was buzzing- eager to learn, exchange ideas and contacts and so happy to meet again. The love for Canterbury and Medway was in the air!’ said Dr Carmen Stoian Senior Lecturer in International Business.

Delegates sat in a lecture theatre watching the Business Summit
Delegates felt ‘optimistic’ and ‘inspired;’ by the variety of presentations and workshops

“I was truly impressed by the vibrant and insightful talks of all speakers. It has been fascinating to learn about current trends of the UK economy and to hear the positive and passionate message about the future of Kent and Medway, great places to live, work, learn and visit,” added Professor Maria Paola Scaparra.

The Kent and Medway Business Summit is a unique platform, not only to discuss challenges and opportunities of our region, but especially to forge new partnerships between businesses and academics that can make a difference in finding innovative solutions to these challenges.

After the break, followed a series of workshops covering hot topics in the business world including Placemaking, Productivity and the Future of Work and Sustainable Innovation, featuring high profile speakers including Turner Contemporary’s Peter Hawkes, Gavin Cleary CEO of Locate Kent and Kresse Welding of Elvis and Kresse.  Attendees could also take part in a heated panel discussion surrounding Purpose and Productivity or hear about the ‘vision’ for Kent and Medway from Liz Gibney Chair of Kent and Medway partnership.

The event finished with a virtual presentation 5 in 5: Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives Within Five Years, from Professor Andy Stanford-Clark, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Master Inventor.

“This is something I have been doing for the last ten or so years and we do some crystal ball gazing and focus groups with the technical public,” he explained. “These are innovations that will make a difference to our sustainable feature.”

Professor Andy Stanford-Clark, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Master Inventor presenting at the event
Professor Andy Stanford-Clark, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Master Inventor appeared via video-link to present on innovations that will aid sustainability

His five predictions included capturing C02 in industrial scale, nitrogen fixation to help food growth, battery chemistry to be less reliant on rare earth metals, electronics and accelerating medical discovery with AI and Quantum Computers.

Closing remarks came from Professor Marian Garcia, Dean of Kent Business School followed by a delicious ‘sustainable’ lunch as the delegates reflected on a fantastic and productive day had by all.

Laura Bounds MBE owner of Kent Crisps, Kentish Oils & Condiments and A Little Bit said: ‘The Business Summit is critical from two perspectives: to network with people outside of your sector and to learn from the experts in the industry, we had a great session with an economist to really give us an in depth understanding of where the economy is heading, and that sort of insight is very rare when you’re working at 100 miles an hour every day. It’s fantastic to be back and it’s a great event and I am really delighted to have attended.”

Bal Sander, CEO of Hectic Lifestyles and Kent alum said: “From a networking point of view, events like the Summit are valuable to speak to other businesses.”

CEO of Kent Cricket Simon Storey said: “It was good to get together with leaders from across Kent and Medway to share latest news, forecasts, and learnings.  Despite the challenges we are facing today, there is a sense that we are all working hard to make Kent and Medway a great place to live, work, visit, learn and play.  What is clear is that we will be better prepared to meet the challenges of the future, if we invest in talent development.”

“The Kent and Medway Business Summit is a unique platform, not only to discuss challenges and opportunities of our region, but especially to forge new partnerships between businesses and academics that can make a difference in finding innovative solutions to these challenges,” said Professor of Management Science Paola Scaparra.

Josh Pitman, Managing Director of Priory Direct said: “The Summit was full of good people; good presentations and it was thought provoking and motivational. The economic forecast was very insightful and enjoyable. I was chairing the sustainability and innovation break out and it was great to have a full room and strong engagement. It was great to have such an engaged audience, good presenters, and really good questions which generated a lot of shared interest and discussion within the room. The Summit for me was thought-provoking, enjoyable, informative, & motivational and certainly worth taking time for.”

Dean of Kent Business School, Professor Marian Garcia concluded: “In this constantly changing business landscape, there has never been a greater need for a place where businesses, politicians, local government, key policy makers and academics can come together and build a roadmap for sustainable economic growth. Marking a welcome return to in-person events, this was a day to discuss, inform, influence and, above all, collaborate.”

Bringing together businesses, key policymakers and leading academics, The Kent and Medway Business Summit features the latest news from key projects, expert keynote speakers and collaborative workshops.  To get involved in our 2023 event email KBSBusiness@kent.ac.uk

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