Entrepreneurs: Saviour of British Innovation

Article date: Mon, 05 Dec 2011 16:00 GMT

 Saviour of British Innovation

Government investment in entrepreneurs and start-ups is vital to save Britain's floundering reputation for innovation.

A rethink of how government money is used in education and a review of the support network for fragile start-ups are both vital if the UK is to keep-up with leading innovative countries like America and Japan.

A panel of key players in the technology industry shared their views on how the country could boost the number of "innovator companies" and bolster a fragile economy at a round table event held by Manchester hosting firm UKFast.

Within its Growth Review recently, the government announced some measures to help SMEs in procuring government contracts and vowed to assign at least 25% of government cyber security contracts to smaller companies. Steve Walsh, managing director of EZE-Talk, explained how these measures need to go further to encourage smaller businesses as the pioneers of ground-breaking ideas.

He said: "For entrepreneurs wanting to start a business in their bedrooms, there is no funding. The government needs to play its part in motivating people to start these businesses otherwise it will be the apprenticeship scenario all over again and in 20 years nobody will have any ideas because they can't afford to pursue them. That would be very sad."

Julian Tait, innovations manager for Future Everything said: "The problem we have at the moment is that technology is moving so fast, so we need to constantly have a low level of innovation because it's so easy to fall behind. But there are so many barriers to that innovative culture that we need to tackle. Bedroom developers need encouragement rather than continual barriers to achieving great things."

Lawrence Jones, CEO of UKFast, built the company from the ground up with no external investment, venture capital or government funding. He understands the challenges that entrepreneurs and small businesses face in bringing innovative ideas to fruition.

He explained: "Having been a business owner for the past 25 years, I know only too well the struggles that fragile start-ups face trying to make their place in the market. It is these small businesses that are the key to not only recovering the country's innovative reputation but to enhancing it and turning us into one of the world's leading innovators once more."

Stuart Hogg, director of Thoughtworks, believes the key to encouraging innovation starts with education and told the panel that an urgent rethink of government spending in this sector is needed. He said: "The government needs to lead by example in education. If you want to study history and medieval organ music, fine, have a course for that, but pay for it.

"As they do for medical students and nurses, they should be supporting engineers and innovators by subsidising their courses - maybe paying 50 per cent of fees for those that are developing the key skills that we need to make Britain a knowledge factory. We should be investing as a government and releasing funds into those organisations to get them started on their solid ideas. We own 50 per cent of the banks so why not?"

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