The future is tech and data – with robotics becoming more widely used – but that means nothing without people as businesses have to be trusted and transparent and have good customer relations, according to Chris Oldacre, IBM UK’s Industry Leader for the Consumer Products, Travel and Logistics sectors, speaking at the sixth Doncaster Business Conference.

The keynote speaker was back in his home town to present to over 200 business leaders about what changes in technology mean for business and the importance of innovation, agility, outward looking and community as part of the Conference’s theme to ‘Act Local. Think Global.’

The high profile event held at The Legacy Centre provided the opportunity for business leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss what the future holds for Doncaster’s business growth and economy – locally and globally. There was a resounding passion for Doncaster’s bold ambition to become a place that continues to grow and get things done collectively in times of austerity.

In his opening address Dan Fell, CEO of Doncaster Chamber re-fired the starting gun on going for City Status saying:

“Doncaster is punching above its weight and setting city standards, so let’s get the badge to go with it!  It is my conviction that securing City Status will cement Doncaster’s reputation as a place of national and international significance.  It will also send a powerful message that we are not the kind of place that will be placated with derisory crumbs from the table – such as the recently announced and highly cynical Stronger Towns Fund – but that we are, instead, an investment ready proposition that is ready to do business with Government, entrepreneurs, and the wider world.”

Keynote speaker, Henri Murison, Northern Powerhouse, agreed: “We need to be proud of ourselves.” He further highlighted that there is a regional need to raise aspirations to make an impact in the lives of young people and the economy – particularly around skills and education – which was further debated in the following panel discussion.

Suzy Brain England OBE, Chair of the Board of Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said they take on over 300 work placements a year, to show young people the different local roles and opportunities in the health sector.

The panel of local businesses also discussed their big ambitions for Doncaster and exploring ways of working collaboratively.  Rachel Whittaker from The Jam Horse, discussed how she sources all of her products locally and is looking to take on an apprentice. (These are both business areas where Doncaster Chamber can support growing more local supply chains and guiding businesses through the apprenticeship system.)

Mayor Ros Jones also reported in her address that last year Doncaster Council spent 70 percent of its budget locally. After the Conference she tweeted: “I am proud to have spoken at @DNChamber Conference. We have brilliant businesses, with a strong Doncaster brand, + the ability to go global, time to deliver the education & skills, jobs and growth for the good of the borough and the people of Doncaster.”

The second panel discussion on doing business globally highlighted that for big and small business alike, the key to international success often relies on flexibility, nimbleness and ultimately listening to what the customer wants. Panellist Karen Beardsley from Unipart Rail said: “Getting out there and trying is the best way to start internationally trading and using the help of Doncaster Chamber and Department for International Trade.”

Jo Miller, Chief Executive of Doncaster Council, provided the grand finale of the Conference with her closing words to the business community saying: “We think like a city, we act like a city, now it’s time to be it… It’s individual people working together that makes things happen. Have a go… Crack on.”