Technology worship is bad for Britain

Issuing a blistering attack on the UK’s technology community, CDT’s Danny Chapchal recently argued that lack of commercial awareness will ultimately stall the growth of the nation’s knowledge based economy and scupper entrepreneurial activity in the UK.

`Time and time again scientists and inventors create what they believe to be a world beating product and expect the world to beat a path to their door. There are now plenty of cases in the UK which show this is absolutely wrong,’ he said.

`Too often’ added Chapchal `inventors are not prepared to exit their existing jobs and take on the risk of a start-up. They don’t have the stomach for it, yet they are reluctant to hand over control and equity to commercial individuals who are prepared to take risk.’

He firmly believes that marketing makes a technology, and points to numerous examples of neat, yet badly marketed British technology that has not succeeded.

His own company CDT, a developer of light emitting polymers (LEP), was spun out of the Cavendish Laboratories at the University of Cambridge in 1992.

Instead of an all or nothing manufacturing approach, Chapchal set out on a course of licensing and joint development.

`Prior to my joining CDT’ he said, `the company was intent on taking on the world’s display manufacturers in a bid to bring its LEP technology to market. The business plan forecast that pursuing a manufacturing strategy, the company would today own 10% of the television market with funding of less than £10 million.’

The old strategy was flawed for two key reasons, namely funding and risk.

`Display manufacturers such as Samsung and Seiko Epson typically invest $500 million in a display manufacturing plant. CDT simply did not have access to this level of funding,’ he claimed.

`Secondly, it’s not possible to bring a new technology to market without a huge investment in research and development and complementary manufacturing skills. Had CDT pursued a technology led strategy, it would have exhausted its funding within six months. But,’ he added,’by focusing on markets and working with market makers we have speeded up this technology and established a platform for the next generation of displays.’