UK as Innovation Hub – perception vs reality?

I highlighted in an earlier post some work on behalf of the CIKTN, in partnership with UK TI, to look at the proposition of the UK as a global digital innovation hub (Silicon Roundabout & beyond….) and the necessary conditions to achieve that aim.

As a first step we held a workshop in East London, inviting businesses, networks and support agencies from throughout the UK to look at the big picture and provide direction and insight.

In some ways much of the current positioning and understanding was reinforced via the session. The broad pitch of the UK as creative, innovative and tech savvy with an adaptable and talented workforce is, at its broadest level, not disputed. The emergence of London as a truly global financial hub (regardless of where you are based in the UK) is also a business positive.

But, even limited interrogation shows that there are faultlines in this analysis which require at the very least recognition if the UK is to retain its international position and positive perception.

Over the course of the afternoon the discussion followed a number of contentious themes, with contradictory positions throughout:

  • The contention that “designing ideas” is a UK USP was countered by the position that identifying a USP was “complacent” in the face of emerging threats from other countries.
  • “The right environment = talent + money”, but can you generate that environment or do you need to support existing ground up momentum?
  • That an international perception of graduate quality is not matched by UK business complaints of lack of work readiness and specific skills gaps.
  • Do UK entrepreneurs want to build start-ups rather than corporations? And is this reinforced by gaps in business development and management skills (“enterprising amateurs’).
  • Issues of access to early stage finance were raised, but is the problem in the presentation of IP value rather than the availability of cash?

By the end of the day an even longer list of issues, exemplars and ideas was in place. We’ll now look to set off another round of more targeted discussion in order to further develop ideas to input towards Government strategy and policy consultation.

Again, more details to follow – but any thoughts or comments at this stage would be most welcome.


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