British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday joined a live question and answer session with a range of UK businesses as part of a new Business Connect programme, which he says will promote his economic growth priority and optimise the conditions for businesses in the country to thrive.
Over 200 of the UK's highest-profile CEOs and business leaders, representing key growth sectors, including tech, life sciences and advanced manufacturing, gathered in London for the first Business Connect event to hear directly from Rishi Sunak.
It came as Downing Street released the latest figures to show that 1,800 jobs a month have been created since October 2022 - the month Rishi Sunak took charge in the wake of a disastrous mini-Budget which resulted in predecessor Liz Truss being deposed as Prime Minister.
"Since taking office, I've spoken to over 1,000 business people - because they are the innovators and change-makers at the heart of our economy, supporting jobs, attracting investment and driving growth," said Mr Sunak.
"Business Connect provides the next fantastic opportunity to demonstrate how we are growing the economy. We are bringing together some of the UK's biggest companies and investors for meaningful dialogue - and I'm a prime minister passionate about working with business to unlock opportunity and progress," he said.
The British-Indian leader said the UK should be proud of its business credentials and pointed to the creation of 162 tech unicorns, smarter regulation and world-leading universities as the "right ingredients" to double down on growing the economy.
Alongside, Mr Sunak also unveiled new GBP 100 million in initial start-up funding for a new task force responsible for accelerating the UK's capability in the rapidly-emerging types of artificial intelligence (AI). The Foundation Model Taskforce, modelled on the success of the COVID
Taskforce, will develop the safe and reliable use of AI across the economy and ensure the UK is globally competitive in this strategic technology.
"Harnessing the potential of AI provides enormous opportunities to grow our economy, create better-paid jobs, and build a better future through advances in healthcare and security. By investing in emerging technologies through our new expert taskforce, we can continue to lead the way in developing safe and trustworthy AI as part of shaping a more innovative UK economy," added Mr Sunak.
As part of long-term plans to create a more innovative UK economy, the UK government added a new "innovation" category at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, to be hosted by UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt at Downing Street on Monday evening. The new award will recognise bright and innovative ideas that deliver new products and services and can drive our economy forward.
"It's absolutely vital that we're listening to - and working with - industry leaders, innovators and disruptors as we deliver on our priority to grow the economy," said Mr Hunt.
The government also referenced plans for new trade deals, including a free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated with India, as part of this economic growth strategy.
"By securing high-quality trade deals, scrapping market access barriers around the world and cutting needless red tape that holds businesses back, I will ensure the UK remains one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business," said UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch.
Several British businesses have expressed their support for the government's Business Connect initiative, designed as a platform for businesses to discuss the UK's growth plans and the role of technology.
"The UK continues to be a prominent financial centre that sits at the heart of global capital markets, and Barclays continues to support the UK government's ambitious plans to drive prosperity and economic growth for people and businesses here in the UK and beyond," said C.S. Venkatakrishnan, the Indian American Group Chief Executive of Barclays.