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BETTER INNOVATION IN WALES CAN LEAD TO A BETTER ECONOMY

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Innovation is one of the key drivers behind the most competitive economies in the World.  Yet as various studies have shown over the last decade, Wales is one of the least intensive nations or regions of the UK in terms of research and development (R&D). This is not only in regard to the considerably lower levels of research funding attracted by the university sector over the last two decades but also in terms of the lower levels of expenditure by Welsh firms on R&D which means that only a third are active in terms of innovation across the economy.  This is despite hundreds of millions of pounds of European funding being focused to boost innovation since devolution which, unfortunately, has largely failed to increase the performance of either higher education or the private sector relative to the rest of the UK. So what can be done to improve this? That is the subject of a recent paper by two of our leading thinkers on innovation namely Professors Rick Delbridge and Kevin Morga

HOW SUPPORTING WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE CAN BOOST ECONOMIC GROWTH

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Earlier this week, we celebrated the successes that women have achieved in every walk of life on International Women’s Day. Whilst there are giant steps being made towards greater gender equality across the world, the latest “ The Women in Work Index 2021 ” examining female participation in work in 33 OECD countries demonstrated both the challenges and, more importantly, the prizes that can be won from closing the gender gap within businesses globally. The good news is that the female labour force participation rate has been increasing since 2011 whilst the gender pay gap and the unemployment rate amongst women has been decreasing.  However, the pace of change is still not enough and it is estimated that, at the current rate, it will take 112 years for women to achieve salary parity with men even though closing the gap would generate £1.4 trillion pounds into OECD economies. Yet there are exemplars that show the rest of the world how to make a difference in this agenda with Iceland, Sw

THE IMPORTANT IMPACT OF STARTUPS ON THE WELSH ECONOMY

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Earlier this week, in association with Wales Week London , we launched the sixth Wales Start-Up Awards which celebrates the success of the best new Welsh businesses every year. It was a pleasure to interview a number of the award winners that are making a real stamp on their industries and markets.  These included Project Blu , overall winner in 2020 which has signed a major multi-million pound deal to sell their environmentally friendly dog products in the USA; Yoello , the Cardiff-based payments specialist which had to pivot during the pandemic but has completed a major funding round to expand their operations substantially; t he Goodwash Company , whose innovative approach to their business is putting them on the path to becoming a major UK brand in the next couple of years; and the Enbarr Foundation which is rewriting the textbook on community entrepreneurship through its efforts in Deeside. Despite all the challenges of the last 12 months, these amazing founders had not only survi

WHY THE DEVELOPMENT BANK OF WALES MUST FOCUS ON CHEAPER LOANS DURING THE COVID-19 RECOVERY?

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Earlier this week, the Welsh Government published its Economic Resilience and Reconstruction Mission which sets out how it will work to rebuild Wales’ post COVID-19 economy. Like every economic strategy document, there are elements of good and bad policymaking within the document. For example, some of the actions on developing a greener economy, supporting innovation, improving digital skills, better public procurement and moves to support our high streets are to be welcomed.  But there are also considerable omissions on key issues which are critical to development of any economy, never mind that of Wales which is the poorest in the UK. For example, there is a total lack of focus on supporting entrepreneurship and new businesses. This is despite overwhelming evidence that new firms not only create the majority of new jobs in any economy but especially during a recession where large firms continue to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs.  And it’s not as if the Welsh Government hasn’t bee

IMPROVING BUSINESS PRODUCTIVITY MUST BE A KEY FOCUS FOR THE WELSH ECONOMY

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Last week, a fascinating economic outlook report was published by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) that focused not only on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic but also Brexit. In doing so, it delivered a sobering assessment of the future of the UK economy as well as the differing fortunes of the regional and devolved economies of the nation. As with many other forecasters, the increase in Covid-19 infections during the last few months has resulted in the NIESR revising its economic growth forecasts for this year, especially with the lockdown of the last couple of months having a bigger negative impact on the UK as compared to last November. As a result, the NIESR suggests that the UK economy will only grow by 3.4% in 2021 although a more rapid rollout of the vaccination programme, along with the lifting of lockdown measurers, could change this.  In addition, the sluggish response of the rest of the World in vaccinating their populations could result in a

THE FUTURE OF JOBS IN A POST-COVID WORLD

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How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the prospects for workers around the World?  This was the focus of the “ The Future of Jobs Report ” from the World Economic Forum which brings together the views of business leaders with the latest data to create an understanding of the current situation and the future outlook for jobs and skills. A worrying trend for those in work is the finding that, in addition to some of the displacement in the labour market that the pandemic has created over the last eleven months, there are indications that any lost jobs will not be replaced as companies move to accelerate the adoption of automation.  For example, half of the businesses will be increasing the rate of automation of jobs, more than one-quarter of employers expect to temporarily reduce their workforce, and one in five expect to permanently lose employees. This raises the spectre of a jobless recovery that will be very different to previous recessions. However, the good news is that despite the

BUILDING BACK BETTER? THE FUTURE OF RETAIL IN A POST-COVID ECONOMY

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During the last eleven months of the pandemic, there has been considerable debate on whether the economy will be different when we finally emerge from our government-imposed exiles in our home offices.  Phrases such as “build back better” and the “new normal” have been bandied about by commentators and columnists in an attempt to perceive a better world for all of us as businesses re-open.  There is increasing evidence that workers across the country will be reluctant to go back to the daily grind of commuting although it is also clear that zoom meetings are no substitute for the human interactions we all crave when it comes to working with others. Whilst the demise of the office may be premature, the Welsh Government has recently suggested that 30% of people will work from home in the future. That will present considerable challenges to those councils that, over the last decade, have focused their efforts on attracting large companies to relocate thousands of workers to offices in cit