The UK needs a better dialogue between innovators and the world of business if it is to stay in the premier league of the global technology economy, it was claimed this week.
The country’s strong record in areas such as micro-electronics, optics and wireless systems could be undermined by poor communications between technologists, financiers and government, according to a new study of the sector from Deloitte.
The professional services group flagged up several areas where this country could do better, alongside a generally upbeat assessment of its technology base.
One area of concern was the oft-highlighted inability of the UK to turn technical expertise into major commercial operations.
‘Presently, the UK appears to be adept at developing world-class subject matter experts who too often lack commercial aptitude. This inevitably constrains their revenue-generating potential,’ said Deloitte.
‘The result is that school leavers and graduates often have little or no idea of how a company works, and how they could fit in. The cost of this is that too many great technological ideas are squandered, as their creators have little or no idea how to express their inventions in business terms to potential investors and customers.’
According to Deloitte, this has bred a climate of mutual misunderstanding between the technology community and the country’s investment sector — one of the strongest in the world and in theory a huge source of backing for homegrown technologies.
The relationship between technology and finance is still recovering from the dotcom crash of the late 1990s which created a ‘degree of mistrust’ between the two, said the report.
‘A better dialogue between the two sectors would be beneficial. The financial sector could improve its understanding of technology. Conversely, and more importantly, technology companies certainly need to improve their ability in commercial terms — in other words, to explain using language comprehensible to the financial sector how a technology will provide a return to its investors.’
Options that could improve the situation suggested by Deloitte included the development of an index for top-performing technology firms on AIM, London’s Alternative Investment Market.
Technology companies should be given a better understanding of the financing options available to them, said the report, which also called for more support for technology enterprises from regional development agencies.
Despite these concerns, plenty of grounds for optimism emerged from the Deloitte study, which was compiled after consulting around 50 of this country’s leading technology decision-makers.
It noted that the UK enjoys the highest proportion of employment in technology sectors of any developed nation and is the world’s fifth-largest technology exporter. This has encouraged numerous technology multinationals to invest here.
And Deloitte suggested trends in the global economy may favour the UK, especially the growing diversity of niche technology markets, each with significant commercial potential.