Collaborate to accelerate

Following The Times and Sunday Times CEO Summit in association with KPMG, Nexus Director Dr Martin Stow shares his insights on some of the key themes.

Leaders of FTSE 250 companies and scaling companies from across our region joined us for the Times CEO Summit 2019 earlier this month.

One of only four taking place across the country, the events – created by The Times and The Sunday Times in association with KPMG – aim to give CEOs the opportunity to share their experiences and discuss how we can continue to grow the UK economy in an inclusive and sustainable way.

The powerful role that Leeds and our wider City Region can play in that process was a key theme, with many speakers highlighting what we do best for business.

Channel 4 Chief Executive Alex Mahon reminded us that 30 cities bid for the opportunity to be the new home for the broadcaster, when they launched a nationwide competition to decide where to relocate their HQ.

It was clear, she said, that years of work had been undertaken to ensure the Leeds media industry was in a good place and the right choice for Channel 4 as it aimed to be more representative of the UK, taking more of its news and current affairs programming out to the regions.

Leeds is a growing city with a huge wealth of talent, she added – words echoed by Richard Fletcher, Business Editor at The Times, who said he was delighted to see the continued growth of this great city, making a major contribution to the UK economy.

The theme was taken up by other speakers, including Mark Livingstone, CEO of Pharmacy 2U who described Leeds’ amazing workforce; Renee Hunt, Director at Sky, who spoke about the 500 new jobs the company is creating in Leeds and Alison Jaap, Customer Services Director at first direct, who described how they disrupted the banking sector and launched the first telephone bank – from their base in Leeds.

Collaboration – and its role in accelerating growth – was another key topic of discussion at the event and it was great to be able to talk about Nexus members, whose businesses are being taken to the next stage of development, by working in close collaboration with leading academics from the University of Leeds.

They include Scaled Insights, which has eight active collaborations in place at the University, across the Business School and the Schools of Medicine, Computing, Psychology and Biomedical Sciences; and Ligentia, which has liaised closely with our Skills and Talent engagement team and the University’s careers service, to attract and recruit graduate talent, develop funded internships and support a wide range of mentoring and learning and development programmes.

The Leeds City Region is also set to enjoy the benefits of international collaboration, as part of our role in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme. Fellow international cohorts in the Programme will join interactive workshops at Nexus and attend networking events across the city early next year, all designed to drive growth and innovation.

As well as celebrating the successes, the Summit also discussed the challenges facing business in our region, particularly in terms of access to funding.

Leeds would benefit from more business angel investors, speakers said and we needed to address the fact that most start-ups still have to seek finance outside our region, with tech companies finding better funding partners in the U.S.

This is an issue which is at the forefront of our thinking here at Nexus and why we established strategic partnerships with KPMG and NorthInvest, the Northern Powerhouse-backed tech investment platform, to give members vital commercial advice and investment connections.

In the same week Nexus hosted this Growth Summit, we also staged the third in our series of breakfast briefings with KPMG, which are designed to give business owners guidance on key issues including accessing finance. NorthInvest joined us to outline how they are helping to connect early stage tech start-ups to angel networks and funds, enabling them to scale up and grow.

There is obviously more to be done to ensure our regional ecosystem supports businesses to be fund-ready and opens up more opportunities for Leeds to become a truly entrepreneurial city.

The contributions and insights provided by our Growth Summit guests were invaluable in terms of informing that process and Nexus will – in close collaboration with our University of Leeds colleagues, strategic partners and business advisory networks – ensure we play our part.

The Times and The Sunday Times are taking their CEO Growth Summits to Bristol, Cambridge and Glasgow, as well as Leeds, focusing on driving growth, pursuing excellence and embracing disruption. In sessions led by editors from both newspapers, the events aim to show how different industries and sectors can prosper in uncertain times and provide valuable insights about succeeding in business.