CBI Annual Conference 2020: Build Back Better

A promotional image for the University of Birmingham sponsoring the CBI Conference 2020

Over 2 - 4 November 2020, the University partnered with the Confederation of British Industry for their annual conference. The move to a digital-only event saw a packed agenda spread over three days with thousands participating from all around the globe.

The agenda included the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition, as well as regional politicians and decision makers alongside panel sessions with leading businesses, such as Unilever, Alpro, NatWest, Legal & General and others, and media personnel including the Editors of Bloomberg and The Economist. 

Our Chancellor, Lord Karan Bilimoria presided over the conference for the first time, after beginning his term as CBI President in June 2020. It was also the final conference for outgoing Director General Carolyn Fairbairn as she hands over to Tony Danker in November 2020.

Watch our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir David Eastwood, in conversation with James Harding of Tortoise Media, in a pre-recorded interview which aired during the conference:


The conference theme of Build Back Better, was well suited to a wide variety of experts and engagements from our University, focusing on these areas: 

  • Exploring how business can help shape a fairer, more sustainable economic recovery. We currently have a bid in with central government for a Speed to Scale Region to create innovation hubs to develop sustainable sectors with business and reskill the West Midlands region.

  • Asking what can make the UK a trading powerhouse. Our R&D programmes with UK innovators sit across large multi-nationals such as Rolls Royce, as well as with regional businesses, such as Salts Healthcare and cut across all sectors and business sizes.

  • Our business strategy focused work, such as that focused on AI and ethics developed in collaboration with a variety of key professional services firms, allows us to maintain the UK's leadership in these cutting edge technologies.  

  • COVID-19 - The University of Birmingham has been central to the fight against the COVID-19 virus. In August 2020, the Binding Site, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, developed a quality-focused Covid-19 test kit in record time. We have also been working with the World Health Organisation to focus on complications arising in pregnancy with COVID-19, as well as working closely with the regional West Midlands governing bodies to focus on the economic impact of the virus on the region and asking what more business can do to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on young people?

  • We are continually looking at our education programmes to ensure our students can still access the highest quality education and be ready, resilient and effective in the working world. Our reskilling and education programmes, such as Degree Apprenticeships, Executive MBAs and other CPD programmes are in development to ensure we bridge the burgeoning gaps around data science and digital skills.

  • What it means to be a responsible employer - Our Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business in the Business School looks at this across four dimensions: Responsible decision making and actions, responsible business performance measurement and accountability, responsible business risk and foresight and responsible business AI and digital transformation.

  • We direct our innovation to solve real-world problems, and this delivers a thriving spinout portfolio, a strong pipeline of patented technologies, and academic consultants whose expertise and knowledge is invaluable to industry.  There are opportunities for licensing and collaboration to develop IP, invest in our spinouts, or co-locate on the University campus for enterprises that need to be in close proximity to the researchers, expertise and facilities at the University. 

Meet and chat with our experts

University of Birmingham business engagement experts and academics are available to speak with businesses. We can offer research collaboration, educational programmes, or talk about the innovation hubs, reskilling and developing the regional economy - the following list of topics is by no means exhaustive:

…the list goes on! 

Get in touch

If you have a current business issue that you would like support with, be it in research and development, refocusing your business strategy, understanding how to get involved with innovation sectors, or you would like more understanding of the Industrial Strategy funds and how to access them, then please do get in touch.

Email us

In addition, any business looking to develop their CPD programmes or Degree Apprenticeships, or reinvigorate their graduate employment schemes, or even if you are an alumnus and want to say hello and get back in touch with us, we look forward to hearing from you.