Time for UK to ‘grow its own Googles’

In his article in The Times on Monday, Matt Ridley lamented the lack of UK investment in innovation and suggested it might be time for Britain to ‘grow its own Googles’.

Rightly citing the fact that technological change is the key contributing factor to world economic growth year on year, Ridley also pointed out that innovation has featured in the General Election platforms of our leading political parties “barely at all”. Despite the huge benefit to Britons offered by more investment in and engagement with technological innovation, political leaders have remained decidedly and bafflingly mute on the subject. Innovation is pivotal to continued economic growth and all that comes with it – deficit reduction, increased budgets for badly under-resourced public sectors and lower taxes – and yet, as Ridley notes, most of the (minimal) mentions of innovation in the debate “so far have been negative”. Digital initiatives in government, though still in their early stages, are starting to make their presence felt, and with technological advances so broadly beneficial to society as a whole, Ridley seems to find it ridiculous that technological innovation is so conspicuously absent as a policy platform in the 2015 debate.

I couldn’t agree more.

I was recently asked by RealBusiness how I’d be voting come election time, and my response echoed much of Ridley’s exasperation at the lack of engagement with innovation from the major parties. Here at Sage People, we not only understand, but exemplify the huge potential for technological innovation – we’ve grown revenue 1000% in the last five years, and as such are one of the fastest growing technology companies in the UK. It’s our aim to keep growing at the same rate, and as an ostensibly ‘Tech Nation’, the times have never been riper for tech to take centre stage.

Yet there remains a distinct lack of dialogue about technology and innovation (there were no mentions of it in the leaders debate), and a similar lack of funding. With technology set to become one of the cornerstones of our social and economic growth as a future, it’s frustrating to see politicians all but ignoring the issue as they continue to beat a more populist drum. Although tech is growing quickly and performing well in the UK, we’re still far from being seen as a digital leader, and understanding of tech businesses remains worrying low. There are still great strides yet to be made in bringing tech and innovation to the forefront of the national consciousness, beginning with making changes to the curriculum to get young people- and especially girls – interested in science and technology from an earlier age.

In order to affect the progression and innovation that will really reap rewards for the UK, there needs to be more focus on and investment in technology as political leaders drive their agendas forward. With momentum building behind the UK’s tech industry, it’s time to invest in innovation and engage the public imagination. You can read more of my views on the future of the Tech Nation in my recent article for Fresh Business Thinking – and let’s hope it’s not too long before we start hearing them from our political leaders too.

 

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