Innovate or perish, warns Brown

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown told an international enterprise conference yesterday that Britain needed more entrepreneurs with “inventiveness” and “creativity” to survive the “fearsome” competitiveness of the global economy.

Speaking at the “Advancing Enterprise” conference, Mr Brown said: “We have not just a long tradition of inventiveness and creativity – a tradition that gave us the steam engine, the telephone, penicillin and the television and made Britain the world’s leading industrial power – but since 1945 it is British inventors that have given us the internet, magnetic resonance imaging, the human genome project – all starting from Britain – affirming both our potential as a scientific nation for the future and the need to continue to invest in British science.”

The key to Britain’s future economic success lay in developing high-tech, science-derived products and services, he noted.

Bill Gates, founder of software giant Microsoft, at the conference yesterday, said Britain would do well to develop new products and exploit strict copyright laws, which would ensure revenue streams in the short to medium term.

Mr Brown announced plans for a national Enterprise Week to be held in November 2004 with the aim of fostering the talents of young entrepreneurs.

He also proposed a competition for a European City of Enterprise and a joint US-UK Forum on Enterprise to be held this year.

The Chancellor took a holistic approach to enterprise: “Our proposals on enterprise for this year each add up to something bigger than their individual parts – initiatives that taken together can make a difference, and contribute to a change in culture and attitudes by valuing and celebrating the spirit of enterprise throughout Britain.”

Mr Brown said a tripartite initiative between the UK, French and German governments would ensure enterprise was a central feature of economic reform in Europe.

Mr Brown said Monday’s little “get together” conveyed a simple message: competitive challenges were more “fearsome” than ever, but the opportunities for the winners were greater than ever.

In assured tones, he said for Britain to achieve its full potential, the Government and business must work “constructively and creatively together.”

“Britain is uniquely well placed to become one of the strongest, most successful enterprise centres of the world.”

But in more sombre language, the Chancellor warned thousands of manufacturing jobs could be lost to developing countries unless UK firms adapted to the new business climate.

Mr Brown warned up to five million US and European jobs could have moved offshore by 2015.