International Business Festival announce speaker programme

Posted January 26, 2018

The International Business Festival has announced the first wave of speakers, sessions and sponsors. The event, which to date has delivered over half a billion pounds of trade and investment for the UK, will be held once again in Liverpool in June 2018.

The published programme will run on the Festival’s Futures Stage, a platform for lively debate and expert insight. Each speaker will bring a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing business, and how to drive growth and innovation.

More speakers and session information will be released in the lead up to the beginning of the Festival on 12 June 2018.

New names, themes and sessions added to Festival programme

Global Economics Day – 12th June

Key speakers:

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General, CBI
Janet Henry, Chief Global Economist, HSBC
Amanda Murphy, Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC
Anthony Behan, Artificial Intelligence Unit, IBM

With the size of the world economy is set to almost double the next two decades, the Festival explores how companies can be part of sustainable, long-term growth.

Carolyn Fairburn, Director General of the CBI, will give a presentation highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing UK business in 2018 and beyond.

HSBC’s Chief Global Economist will share the latest data on global economic forecasts and trends with a detailed analysis and her own take on markets.  

The day’s key note speech will be from a leading figure at the IBM Watson artificial intelligence unit, Anthony Behan.

Behan’s address will focus on why it is essential that we get over our fear and prejudices of robots, AI and job automation if we want to develop the technology that will ensure success and growth in the decades to come.

Urbanisation and Cities – 13th June

Key speakers:

Professor Michael Parkinson, Ambassador, The Heseltine Institute
Lord Michael Heseltine
Jurgen Maier, Managing Director, Siemens

Cities are the driving force of global economic growth and home to almost half of the world’s population. The Festival will explore the potential for cities to become engines of global growth. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Heseltine will present a new vision for urban development in the 21st century. 

Siemen’s Managing Director, Jürgen Maier will be joined by a panel of expert speakers to discuss how cities can be made more liveable, better connected and better incubators for business.

Sustainable Energy – 14th June

Key speakers:

Mark Shayler, Design Council / Sustainability Adviser
Stefan Stern, Director, High Pay Centre and CIPD
Philip Jennings, General Secretary, UNI Global Union

The amount of energy obtained from renewable sources is on track to surpass fossil fuels by 2040. Hosted by the Design Council’s, Mark Shayler, the International Business Festival will explore opportunities for business in the clean energy economy of the future.

Engaging sessions will look at how a changing energy mix will impact the economy and at whether, counterintuitively, climate change might deliver some positive impact for society and business.

And Director of the High Pay Centre Stefan Stern will be joined by head of global skills and services union UNI Global Phil Jennings for a panel discussion on job automation and the role for human workers in the economy of tomorrow.

Future Transport – 19th June

Spencer Kelly, BBC Click
Alan Cross, Chairman, Northern Space Consortium
Madeha al-Ajroush, Women’s rights campaigner
Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport and Manufacturing, iMECHe
Caroline Coates, Partner, DWF Law

Innovation in mass and individual transit means that the transport sector is changing at the fastest pace since the early decades of last century. The 2018 International Business will ask what new technology in travel could mean for business.

Hosted by BBC Click presenter Spencer Kelly, sessions on Future Transport day will explore the viability and potential impact of the Hyperloop project.

Leading Saudi women’s rights campaigner Madeha al-Ajroush will take part in a panel on the commercial and societal impact of the recent announcement of the lifting of the ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia.

Leading representatives from law firm DWF and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers will discuss the impact of driverless vehicles on business and society. And UK space industry pioneer Alan Cross will present his vision of a world-leading British space industry.

Manufacturing – 20th June

Simon Jack, Business Editor, BBC
Paul Nowak, Deputy General Secretary, TUC

Technologies like AI, automation and 3D Printing are changing face of the manufacturing industry. The Festival will focus on how business can future-proof in the face of this disruption, and make the most of the opportunities it will create.

Hosted by BBC Business Editor Simon Jack, sessions on Manufacturing day will explore the productivity puzzle, smart factories and the future of engineering.

And Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, Paul Nowak will also be taking part in a panel on workplace rights in the coming age of automation.

Global Logistics and Shipping – 21st June

Chris Kutarna, Author, Age of Discovery
Julio Gil, Industrial Engineering Manager, UPS

Author and academic Chris Kutarna – who at the 2016 Business Festival predicted the Brexit vote and the Trump presidency – will introduce a day focused on how to move goods, data and services in a global marketplace and what opportunities international supply chains offer businesses.

Sessions will explore the growth of local, small-scale production and its impact on the logistics industry as well as the One Belt, One Road initiative which will see China rebuild the ancient Silk Road for the 21st century.

And head engineer for one of the world’s largest logistics firm UPS will present an interesting counterfactual, exploring what would happen if people moved away from living predominately in cities and the impact this would have on the logistics industry.

Health and Life Sciences – 26th June

Jim Al-Khalili, Scientist and broadcaster
Lord Jim O’Neill of Gatley, Former Goldman Sachs Economist and leader of AMR Review
Janet Hemingway, Director, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Vickie Hawkins, Executive Director, Médecins Sans Frontières UK

Spending on global healthcare is expected to reach $8.7 trillion by 2020. The 2018 International Business Festival will explore the pioneering new approaches to global challenges like infectious disease or an ageing population

Hosted by scientist and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili, Health and Life Sciences day will celebrate advances in the science of infection, investigate how technology is improving access in health and augmenting humans, and the crucial role of business in bringing this about.

Executive Director of Médecins Sans Frontières UK, Vickie Hawkins will run a session on infectious disease in the age of global hyperconnectivity.

And Lord Jim O’Neill, who led the UK government’s recent review of the global challenge of antibiotic resistance, will join a panel of experts and innovators for an informative exchange on the ways academics and businesspeople are working together to fight the threat of drug-resistant disease.

Creative Industries – 27th June

Wayne Hemingway, Hemingway Design

Employing nearly 30 million people and generating global revenues of more than $2 trillion, the creative and cultural industries are big business.

The 2018 International Business Festival’s Creative Industries Day, hosted by designer Wayne Hemingway, will focus on new technologies and ask if developers, artists and designers can forge new relationships in order to deliver business growth. 

Sessions will focus on topics including the revolutionary use of big data in advertising and how exporting culture might be the next frontier for business post-Brexit.

 Sport, Culture and Travel – 28th June

Cherie Blair CBE QC, lawyer, women’s rights campaigner
Jude Kelly, formerly Artistic Director of Southbank Centre and Creative Director of International Business Festival

The transformational power of sport, culture and travel industries cannot be underestimated. Cities, sports teams and cultural institutions can become powerful brands in themselves, and there are real opportunities for businesses to take advantage of.

Hosted by former Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre Jude Kelly, the day will feature a variety of lively sessions investigating the impact of immersive technology on footfall, football as a placemaking attraction and the growing popularity of video gaming as spectator sport.

The final day’s keynote speech will be delivered by Cherie Blair QC, leading women’s rights campaigner and wife of former PM Tony Blair. She’ll talk about the future of work and its impact on business and society.

New Festival partners

UK Business Angels Association:  The UKBAA is the UK’s largest network of investors. As the Festival’s Investment Partner, it will act as the interface for investor engagement, aiming to match investor exposure to the range of business opportunities available.

This will include “The Pitch” business scale-up showcasing events on eight of the Festival’s nine days.  Each event will involve selected companies seeking investment to scale up their business pitching to a panel of investors interested in their sectors. 

British Airways: As a Lead Festival Sponsor, British Airways shares a belief in the importance of in-person networking and business connections.

DWF:  As the Official Day Partner for the Future Transport sector day, the international legal firm will use its role to explore new technology and what impact this will have on businesses operating in the sector.

Max Steinberg CBE, chairman of the 2018 International Business Festival, said: “The key to the growth and success of any business is the ability to accurately predict the future, deciding what your next move will be in a rapidly changing environment. It’s important to consider your business alongside the big trends and challenges facing us all and this is something we wanted to capture in our programme.”

“As well as experiencing our engaging main stage programme, there are also significant opportunities for Festival delegates to meet with buyers, suppliers and investors from around the world. Making these face-to-face connections is going to be a priority for UK firms as they prepare for the post-Brexit world and the new global opportunities it will present.”

Interviews and case studies

To arrange an interview with Max Steinberg or a Festival case study, please contact Mia Cochrane or Liam Johnson at Four Communications on 0203 697 4200 or

About International Business Festival

The International Business Festival is the world’s biggest business event. Hosted every two years in its home city of Liverpool, the festival captures the dynamism and diversity of the global marketplace. The goal is to give businesses the space, support and expertise they need to make connections, do deals and realise their potential. The International Business Festival is co-funded by the City of Liverpool and the UK government through the Liverpool City Region combined authority single investment fund. His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge is Patron of the 2018 International Business Festival. | @thebusinessfest |


Notes to Editors

Independent research analysis conducted by SG Lingard.