BCCI – a rock of stability in an ever-changing Bristol

Richard Bonner
Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative President - Business West
15th January 2018

According to Gerd Leonhard the pace of technological change over the course of the next twenty years will outstrip that of the last three hundred.

Cryptocurrencies. AI. White collar automation. It’s all happening as we begin 2018.

Not only this, the world is more in flux than it’s ever been. Brexit, Trump and North Korea all represent a transition from the old geopolitical order and the emergence of a new one.

Change is exponential. Disruption has become the new normal.

For business, one rock of stability in this ever-changing world, is the Chambers of Commerce movement – a movement I have long been associated with through my involvement in the Bristol Chambers of Commerce & Initiative.

Bristol Chamber of Commerce turns 195 this year - my first as President. 

As an organisation we have survived two World Wars, weathered countless recessions and outlived numerous Governments. 

We are one of the largest city Chambers in the UK, and our longevity, in my view, is owed to the fact that we recognise how business operates within a context, and that investing with the social milieu in which business takes place is absolutely essential. Transport, housing and culture are all key pillars of the social infrastructure, which enable business and society to grow.

Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative delivers on these principles by standing in the space between government and the business world, providing the unique voice that enterprise needs, through forming partnerships - such as Bristol Cultural Development Partnership and Destination Bristol - that represents the best of public and private sector working together. 

In doing so, we have been able to continually renew and reinvent ourselves as an organisation - attracting the business leaders of tomorrow and not only keeping pace with the rate of change but actively driving it, by shaping the social and economic agenda for the region.

As I look forward to 2018, the future for our city region contains a lot of unknowns, but it is an exciting future nonetheless.

With Brexit on the horizon and the pace of technological change accelerating, our local economy is going to have to adapt and embrace new opportunities.

As long-time supporters of the Engine Shed, and delivery partners for PwC’s scale up SW initiative, we will be pressing ahead with the Government’s SME growth agenda, by helping to identify and give a leg up to the wealth creators of tomorrow.

With so many Bristol start-ups doing things that we never even dreamed were possible, our city is fertile ground for scale up businesses, but on the flipside of this coin, of course, is the need to ensure that the skills profile of the region is fit for purpose when it comes to  the jobs of tomorrow.

That being so, we are working closely with colleagues at WECA, in addition to West of England LEP, to help formulate the skills agenda for the city region. 

On the ground, we are connecting our universities and further education colleges with local businesses and large employers. All the while supporting the place making activities of colleagues, such as Bristol City Centre BID, who make Bristol such a sticky place to live, work, visit and do business.

It’s safe to say that 2018 will be a busy year. I’ve got my work cut out that’s for sure, guiding business and playing an active stake in the local economy, in addition to my day job Arcadis’ City Executive for Bristol.

But 2018 will also be a very special year. It is 30 years since the Initiative was established as part of Bristol Chamber of Commerce, and ever since the Initiative has played its role, whether large or small, in inspiring and delivering a series of successes throughout the city.

We are proud of our history and I am a proud custodian of this great institution - an institution that has stood the test of time, which nowadays more than ever is vital to the social and economic good health of the Bristol city region.

Do you want to join the conversation?

Sign up here
  • The West of England Initiative

    Provides an effective link between private and public sectors to ensure the interests of commerce are considered in key decision making.

  • 21,000 businesses trust us to help them start, grow, innovate & export - as well as lobby government on their behalf.