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PM Rishi Sunak Speech To The CBI Conference - 21 November 2022

21st November 2022

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressed the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in Birmingham.

Tony, let me start by saying thank you to you and your team.

The CBI is a valued institution in this country...

…and a powerful voice for business.

And let me thank all of you…

Because I know things are tough right now.

You rightly want to know what you can expect from me.

You saw what mattered to me when I was Chancellor, with policies like furlough.

Acting with empathy. In the national interest.

Above all, being bold, decisive, and radical.

Now let me tell you what I want to do as Prime Minister.

I said on the steps of Downing Street that I would put stability and confidence at the heart of this government's agenda.

And last week we did that…

…with a plan to grip inflation and balance the books.

I said I would bring fairness and compassion to help the most vulnerable.

And we’ve done that too…

…not just with record increases in pensions and welfare…

….and help for people’s energy bills…

…but by controlling inflation.

Because the best way to help people…

…is by stopping mortgages, rents, and food prices from spiralling out of control.

Re-establishing stability is the critical first step.

But there’s so much more we need to do.

I’m not just here to solve problems.

I want to build a better country.

Where we get inflation down and grow the economy.

Where we cut NHS waiting times and improve the quality of care.

Where we invest more in schools and give every child a world-class education.

And critical to achieving all this…

….is innovation.

That’s my theme today.

And a defining focus of my government.

Why innovation matters
I sometimes worry that when people hear the word ‘innovation’, all they think of are the latest gadgets - a smarter watch, better tv, or faster car.

But to me, innovation is much more about new ideas, new ways of doing things that drive economic and social progress.

The product of creativity and ingenuity…

…and what Roosevelt called ‘bold, persistent experimentation.’

I want to lead a country where that mindset and that culture of innovation…

…permeates every aspect of what we do.

Where it’s at the heart of our economic policy…

…and at the heart of our vision for public services.

The question is – how do we do that?

First, we need to harness innovation to drive economic growth.

Second, we need to embed innovation in our public services - especially our NHS.

Third, we need to teach people the skills to become great innovators.

Harnessing Innovation to drive economic growth
First, growth.

Tony, you’ve rightly challenged us to be more ambitious for growth.

Well, there’s one factor above all that drives growth.

Over the last 50 years, innovation was responsible for around half of the UK’s productivity increases.

But the rate of increase has slowed significantly since the financial crisis.

This difference explains almost all our productivity gap with the United States.

How do we fire up the innovation engine?

We believe that the very act of creativity and exploration is itself a reward…

…so it starts with government investment in basic science and research.

In a challenging time, when we are making difficult decisions on public spending…

…in last week’s autumn statement, we protected the budget for research and development.

£20bn – almost a fifth of our entire capital budget, the highest level of R&D this country has ever seen.

And we’re investing in high-risk, high-reward research with the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency.

But more important than what government does is what you do.

It’s private sector innovations that really drive growth.

You’d expect me to say that, I’m a Conservative – but it’s true.

That’s why the Autumn Statement cut taxes to encourage larger companies to do more research and development.

Its why we’re going to allow businesses to claim R&D tax relief on pure maths and cloud computing.

And its why we’re absolutely committed to using our new Brexit freedoms…

…to create the most pro-innovation regulatory environment in the world…

…in sectors like life sciences, financial services, AI and data.

But any credible strategy also needs to support fast growing businesses…

…those firms disproportionately responsible for our future growth.

Turning million-pound businesses into billion-pound businesses and turning billion-pound businesses into ten-billion-pound companies

…will create good well paying jobs for the British people.

But too often, those firms can’t access the finance they need.

That’s why we’re radically reforming the regulation of our insurance and pensions sectors, as well as our listings rules…

…to release a flood of new funding for exciting, innovative businesses.

And we’ll need to go further.

But this isn’t just about what large businesses and financial markets can do.

We want to support small businesses to innovate, too.

On every high street, in every market town, every day we rely on brilliant local businesses from the greengrocer to the dry cleaner to the local plumber.

We should be ambitious for their future too.

The real prize is supporting them to innovate.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing with new initiatives like Help to Grow and Made Smarter.

So make no mistake – our most pressing task when it comes to growth is stability and controlling inflation.

But that will never be the limit of our ambition.

The more we innovate, the more we’ll grow – and we have a plan for both.

An innovation culture in our public services
Second, we also need to create a culture of innovation in our public services.

Now I grew up in an NHS family.

It’s in my blood.

And as your Prime Minister, I will always protect an NHS free at the point of use.

And that’s why, in a budget where we had to make savings overall….

…we didn’t cut the funding for health and social care….

…we increased it.

By £8 billion.

So let no-one ever doubt our commitment to the brilliant men and women who work in our NHS.

But our ambition for our country’s most important public service cannot be measured solely by the money we spend…

…but by the quality of care every patient receives.

We all want it to be easier for people to see their family GP.

We don’t want our loved ones waiting so long for ambulances…

…or for the operations they need.

But better care requires innovation.

Now In part that means new drugs and new technologies.

And this country should be proud of how we are leading the way.

Not just with that extraordinary Covid vaccine.

But with robots assisting surgery…

….doctors being trained with Virtual Reality headsets…

…and drones transporting prescription medicines to patients in remote locations.

Medical technologies like these are only the most visible form of innovation.

But we also need to radically innovate in how we do things.

That’s how we will really improve the quality and speed of care and make the money we invest in the NHS go further.

To do that, we’re opening Community Diagnostic Centres to deliver millions more tests, checks and scans…

….close to home and without having to arrange multiple appointments.

And our new elective surgical hubs will offer hundreds of thousands of patients…

…quicker access to the most common procedures.

But we need to go further still.

We want to give patients genuine choice about where and when to access care.

And those choices need to be informed by radical transparency about the performance of our healthcare system.

We’re also making sure the NHS has the workforce it needs for the future…

…with the right numbers of doctors and nurses in the right places…

…as well as thinking creatively about what new roles and capabilities we need…

…in the healthcare workforce of the future.

When it comes to the NHS, we all share the same ambition…

…to give everybody in the country the best possible care, free at the point of use.

But to deliver it, we need to be bold and radical in challenging conventional wisdom.

And that’s what we’ll do.

Giving the people the skills to become great innovators
Now, third, there can be no innovation unless people have the skills to innovate.

That starts with our schools.

So last week we announced an extra £2bn in each of the next two years.

But funding is not enough.

There is no responsibility as Prime Minister that I feel more deeply, than how we develop a truly world-class education system…

…giving every child in our country the best chance in life and preparing them to enter into a rapidly changing world.

The Times were right to challenge us about what that looks like.

And we are asking ourselves radical searching, questions.

About the curriculum – because young people need to enter the modern economy equipped with the right knowledge and skills.

And about technology – because we want to help children engage and learn better and save teachers’ time.

We also need to end once and for all the mistaken idea that learning is something you finish at 18.

So we will also deliver our Lifetime Skills Guarantee to help people of any age retrain and acquire new skills.

I believe, in the very core of my being, that education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet in public policy.

It’s the most transformative thing we can do for our people…

…something you as employers know all too well…

…and I am determined to get this right.

But to make this country a true island of innovation, we also need to attract the best and brightest from around the world.

So we will unapologetically create one of the world’s most attractive visa regimes for entrepreneurs and highly skilled people.

And one of the areas where we need to be most ambitious – is AI - Artificial Intelligence.

Because this isn’t just another new technology.

It’s a general purpose technology…

…like the invention of the steam engine and the computer chip…

…with the potential to transform every aspect of our lives.

So we cannot allow the world’s top AI talent to be drawn to America or China.

That’s why – building on the AI scholarships and masters conversion courses I instigated as Chancellor…

…we are launching a programme to identify and attract the world’s top 100 young talents on AI.

Less "build it and they will come" and more “let them come and they will build it”.

But we must be honest with ourselves.

Part of the reason we ended free movement of labour was to rebuild public consent in our immigration system.

If we’re going to have a system that allows businesses to access the best and brightest from around the world…

….we need to do more to give the British people trust and confidence that the system works and is fair.

That means tackling illegal migration.

And that’s what I’m determined to do.

So, to conclude - innovation matters.

It matters because it creates more jobs, higher wages, and better opportunities for people.

It matters because it improves our schools and NHS.

And, over the long-term, by boosting growth and creating more productive public services…

…innovation is how we will cut taxes for people and businesses.

That’s why I am placing innovation at the heart of my governing agenda

And despite the challenges we face - I am optimistic about the future.

Because the golden thread of our national story has always been innovation.

The idea that what’s yet to be discovered is surely even greater than all that’s come before.

I want the United Kingdom to be a place of learning, discovery, and imagination.

Of potential realised and ambition fulfilled.

That’s how we’ll improve the lives of all our people.

And as your Prime Minister, that’s what I’m going to do.

Thank you.