Robert Lloyd Griffiths is celebrating a decade at the helm of IoD Wales. Here he outlines how a confident nation is building a new global identity for itself – and why cross-sector collaboration is at the heart of this effort
“For Wales see England” is a tag that Wales has endured for decades, despite centuries of its own history, heritage and success – and, dare I say, the best national anthem in the world.
Devolved government in Wales is 20 years old this year. Despite its critics, there’s no doubt that this has created a close working environment in which key stakeholders – especially businesses – share the goal of developing a modern country with opportunities for all.
Reasons to be cheerful
The Welsh economy has historically lagged behind the rest of the UK, but the times are a-changing. South-east Wales, for instance, now houses the world’s first compound semiconductor centre.
At its centre in Pencoed, Sony manufactures the cameras that cover practically every sporting event on the planet.
Welsh fintech is globally renowned – and our insuretech sector features high-profile companies such as MoneySuperMarket, which is based up in Flintshire, and Admiral and Confused.com in Cardiff.
There have also been many positive business announcements across Wales this year. Most recently, Ineos Automotive has revealed that it’s chosen Bridgend as the site for the production of its new 4×4 vehicle.
All this is happening because the Welsh government has a clear economic strategy for growth that prioritises key sectors. In the process, it has created the ideal environment for innovation and collaboration.
A strong lobby
The first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, acknowledges that the politicians do not know all the answers when it comes to business and the economy. The secretary of state for Wales, Alun Cairns, says the same. They understand that involving business in their economic policy-making is fundamental to Welsh success.
This is a critical role that I and the wider IoD in Wales play. We engage with politicians and civil servants almost every day, sharing our views and those of IoD members to shape government strategy. It is extremely refreshing.
For example, I sit on the Council for Economic Development and the Brexit advisory group, which are chaired by Drakeford and economy minister Ken Skates respectively. I’m also a member of Cairns’s business advisory group and Brexit advisory panel.
None of these are mere talking shops. While the IoD is non-political, I gain insights into both governments’ positions and, in turn, I represent members’ views to them. The politicians want to hear what our members think.
Here to support business
There is no doubt that, by being so close to both governments, the IoD in Wales has a positive impact. But I must stress that we remain at arm’s length, because it would be wrong to say that everything is well in the world.
For instance, there was widespread disappointment among our members about the Welsh government’s decision not to proceed with a relief road around the heavily congested Newport area. An urgent solution is needed and we are petitioning for that.
The road decision has come during difficult period for Welsh businesses, given the wider political instability caused by Brexit. I have never known a time like it in my 10 years in this role.
But business, as always, gets on with it. We are here to support our members throughout it all, taking their views to a whole range of audiences, not only political ones.
We also offer members the chance to share their own experiences and advice with each other through our numerous events. There is never a quiet day.
We have a close-knit business community here in Wales. We work well together.
Lastly, and apologies for the cliché, there is always a welcome for new members and existing members from further afield who want to work in and with Wales. We are a country very much open for business.
You can contact Robert Lloyd Griffiths OBE at:
The IoD, Aberconway Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU
029 2038 9990