Tony Blair

Prime minister Tony Blair’s speech last week marked the launch of the Millennium Products project aimed at identifying up to 2,000 products which exemplify how British creativity and flair lead to world class performance. About 200 will be displayed at th

Britain has the potential to be one of the leading modern nations of the world. On 1 May the country voted for modernisation. For a Britain where we challenge ourselves to modernise.

Modern Britian is a place where everyone can share in our prosperity no matter what their background. It is a country in which we have a constitution where decisions are taken closer to the people so that confidence is restored in politics. It is a nation where we raise standards in our schools so that children have the skills and knowledge to succeed.

But perhaps, most importantly, it is a modern economy in which we outsmart our competitors so that we create and sell new products people want to buy all over the world. And we are well placed to do so.

We have an unrivalled track record of innovation and creativity. We were once the workshop of the world, leading the industrial revolution. Since then Britain can claim to be the birthplace of the majority of leading inventions of the last 100 years: the television, computer, fibre optics, penicillin, the discovery of DNA, genetic fingerprinting, communication technology and even the microwave oven. We have 90 Nobel prizes for science. Today we are leading the world in another economic revolution – a creative revolution. We can say with confidence that we are becoming a creative powerhouse of the world.

Our design industry is worth £12bn a year and employs more than 300,000 people. The overseas earnings of rock music now exceed the steel industry. More people work in the TV and film industry than shipbuilding. Our fashion designers have been taken on by Europe’s leading fashion houses. Nine out of 10 Formula One cars are designed and built in Britian. Eight out of 10 of the most profitable retailers are British.

We are the first in Europe and the second in the world only to the US for international direct investment. We are world leaders in pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.

We lead Europe in financial services with 520 overseas banks in London from 76 countries and a third of the world’s foreign exchange business comes through London. We are the world centre for creative advertising with £10bn spent each year.

We have all that success, yet we have a long way to go in making it count. Too often people have an image of a Britain that is stuck in the past. Good at pageantry, less good at new technology. That perception is wrong, and it is bad for business, and bad for Britain.

And the surprise is that we share this perception. Rather than standing up for our successes, surveys of British attitudes to our own products show we undervalue goods and services created in Britain.

We have so much to be proud of, so much to build on, yet often we simply don’t know about it. Sometimes we lack confidence because we don’t realise how good we are.

This is an era in which we can get our confidence back. It is time to show the world we are not only a country with a glorious past, we are a country with a powerful future.

How do we display that new confidence to ourselves and to the outside world? The answer lies in initiatives such as the one the Government is taking with the Design Council. The Millennium Products Initiative will identify and promote the best of British innovative products, designs and services. Products that change the way we live in the 21st century. Designs that improve the quality of our lives. Services which help us create prosperity.

The selected products chosen by a panel of assessors will be branded as Millennium Products and will be heavily promoted, showcased worldwide and featured in travelling exhibitions. They will be used too in schools, colleges and businesses to inspire others to follow.

The kind of products we are looking for are the Dyson dual cyclone vacuum cleaner, Blatchford artificial limbs and BT’s touchpoint kiosk.

These products are made by companies which realise that competitive advantage comes not just from cutting costs but from the added value that comes from innovation. That is the way to lead the field. The future success of our economy depends on our creative industries that use brain power where once we used only physical power.

I am pleased that business has already welcomed today’s events. The CBI as well as many of the country’s top businesses have already backed the initiative.

I am also encouraged by the interest of the venture capital industry which has said they will look at ways in which they can help develop some of the products.

This is a Government and this is a prime minister focused on the long term. We have taken some tough decisions particularly in dealing with the Budget deficit and giving the Bank of England control over interest rates. These are beginning to pay off. Today’s IMF report shows the economy is in good shape. Today’s unemployment figures show another fall. New figures show borrowing under control. All demonstrate that tough decisions for the long term are paying off.