On 31 October 2022, the Commonwealth Secretariat hosted a delegation of 25 start-up entrepreneurs from India, for a half-day knowledge sharing session at Marlborough House in London.
The event was organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Economic, Youth & Sustainable Development (EYSD) Unit, in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII), Centre of Excellence for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Start-ups (CIES).
It aimed to explore areas of potential collaboration, as well as raise awareness and strengthen understanding of the Secretariat’s programming in the areas of trade, entrepreneurship, and investment. Further discussions regarding the UK’s innovation and technology start-up landscape were had.
Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy Development for EYSD, opened the event with a keynote speech in which he emphasised the Commonwealth’s value as a meeting point for a diverse array of cultures, countries, perspectives, and ideas.
Members of the Secretariat staff from the Trade, Oceans and Natural Resources (TONR) divisions, including Dr Radika Kumar, Adviser Infrastructure Policy, Amelia Kelly, Communication and Programme Analyst, and Abhik Sen, Head of Innovation and Partnerships, addressed the delegates and emphasized the various programmes, opportunities, and areas for possible collaboration within the Unit.
Dr Kumar presented on the Unit’s Connectivity Agenda and the Unit’s knowledge products, highlighting the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub as a key initiative the Secretariat utilises to assist member states with accessing much-needed climate finance.
On the issue of assistance from the Secretariat outside of the level of the State, Ms Kelly spoke about the Intra-Commonwealth SME Association: a platform which supports MSME exporters and importers to meet regularly, build awareness of existing global standards, and encourage regional and international investments in areas where member states have competitiveness but lack capacity.
Giving focus to issues of innovation and partnerships, Mr Sen urged delegates to harness the potential of the Commonwealth as a diverse body which offers a plethora of opportunities for multilateral co-operation.
Mr Sen called for delegates to look for opportunities for trade, investment and knowledge exchange within the Commonwealth, as the chances of business success are higher when economic co-operation takes place between actors who are situated within the Commonwealth.
To address the delegates on the start-up and technological innovation landscape across the United Kingdom, the Secretariat invited Mr Alex Mitchell, a leading expert within the UK SME and start-up eco-system. He is the founder of the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance (YEA) as well as a former chair of the Institute of Directors.
Mr Mitchell provided delegates with an overview of the landscape within the UK, highlighting areas of interest, as well as the challenges and opportunities of operating within the UK market as an SME.
In a concluding address, Mr Suresh Yadav, Deputy Head in the Secretary-General’s Office, spoke to delegates urging them to continue to raise their concerns, requests and needs to the Secretariat so that the Secretariat can champion these in multilateral decision-making spaces.
By the conclusion of the event, participants demonstrated a keenness to maintain communication with the Secretariat and expressed an overwhelming interest in continued co-operation and knowledge exchange.
- Amy Coles Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat