Royal approval

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THE DUKE of Cambridge hailed the “ingenuity, drive and commitment” of Britain’s SMEs, as he was announced as patron of the 2018 International Business Festival.

Prince William said the entrepreneurs he’d met while performing royal duties “demonstrate the best qualities of our national character” and challenged Britain’s companies to do more to invest in the skills of young people.

The duke, who has championed British innovation in countries such as China, Japan and the US as part of the government’s export-focused GREAT campaign, was announced as patron at the Festival’s launch event at London’s Lancaster House on Thursday evening.

“The UK’s prosperity relies on its wealth of innovative and ambitious small and medium-sized businesses,” the prince said in a letter supporting the event.

“I am pleased to announce my patronage of the 2018 International Business Festival; an event held in Liverpool on behalf of Britain, bringing together business people from around the world.”

The event will take place at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool between June 12 and 28. Its nine days will each be themed around sectors with high-growth potential, such as global logistics and shipping, manufacturing, and health and life sciences.

Duke’s message in full

The Duke of Cambridge’s message in full

Festival chairman Max Steinberg said the duke’s commitment was “fantastic news” for the biennial event, which has hosted 94,000 visitors and seen companies conclude £600m of deals in the last two events.

“Having the duke as patron adds real weight to the Festival offering and will be a huge boost to our presence in key international markets, helping us to attract even more delegations to Liverpool next June,” said Steinberg.

“He clearly recognises the importance to the country of this festival, and the international trade it promotes, at this key moment in history. We are extremely grateful to the duke for setting aside time in what’s an already very busy schedule to support the International Business Festival.”

There was positive reaction from within the business community to the announcement.

Confederation of British Industry innovation director Tom Thackray said: “It is great that Prince William has committed his support to the 2018 International Business Festival.

“His support of the event will undoubtedly help the UK attract business, trade and investment from around the world.

“Boosting UK exports and business investment is critical and we at the CBI know that the Festival will showcase British businesses of all sizes, and help them to build lasting relationships with international partners.”

UK Business Angels Association chief executive Jenny Tooth said: “The duke will clearly make a strong champion for entrepreneurship and innovation for this important international Festival.”

The CBI’s Tom Thackray
‘Duke’s support will undoubtedly help UK attract business from around the world’ – Tom Thackray

Tooth who received her OBE for services to small business and angel investment from the duke in 2015, said: “Prince William is clearly aware of the importance of supporting the growth of small businesses here in the UK and the role that angel investors play in not just providing finance but also mentoring and business experience.”

In 2015, the duke supported British businesses taking part in a government Innovation is GREAT event in Japan. Among the businesses showcasing their work was Open Bionics, which makes robotic hands for amputees.

Chief executive Joel Gibbard said: “It is fantastic that the Duke of Cambridge has stepped forward to help British businesses boost their international efforts. We were honoured to have him look over our bionic hands in Japan, where he promoted innovative British robotic technologies and strengthened our exporting relationships.”

Prince William helps fit an airbag to a McLaren car with apprentice of the year nominee, Alex Machin on the factory floor during his visit to McLaren Automotive Production Centre in Woking in September
The Duke, pictured with McLaren Automotive apprentice Alex Machin, says support for young people is crucial

Conrad Bird CBE, director of the GREAT Britain Campaign which promotes foreign trade, says: “The Duke of Cambridge has been a great international champion of British business abroad on numerous occasions. He is passionate about innovation and creativity, and his presence on overseas trade missions has helped to showcase the best that UK companies have to offer on the world stage.”

In his supporting letter, the duke spoke of his respect for those behind Britain’s small businesses. He said: “Whenever I have had the chance to meet the people who run such enterprises, I have been struck by their ingenuity, drive and commitment. They demonstrate the best qualities of our national character.”

The duke is already patron of a number of organisations including Skill Force and the 100 Women in Hedge Funds’ Philanthropic Initiatives. He takes a keen interest in the future of young people through the Royal Foundation he set up with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, and brother Prince Harry.

In his letter, he said: “As we look to Britain’s future, it is important that we focus on developing the talent of our next generation of business leaders and providing them with opportunities to thrive.

“We know that one of the major challenges for business is access to a skilled workforce. The International Business Festival has a vital role in encouraging businesses to become further involved in the training and mentoring of young people in enterprise.

Sara Davies, of Crafter's Companion
Duke's involvement 'will have a positive impact' - entrepreneur Sara Davies

“It is only by investing in our young people that we will be able to build the fair and prosperous society we all want to live in.”

Sara Davies, who developed Crafter’s Companion into an international craft supplies company from its base near Darlington, received an MBE from the duke last year.

“[He was] genuinely interested in not only businesses but the people behind them. As a business owner looking to expand my international presence, I am certain that his involvement will have a positive impact,” she said.

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Produced by the 2018 International Business Festival, in partnership with Wordscapes.