Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Trying to make technology the engine of recovery

I attended the launch of a new manifesto at the House of Lords today ("Making BrITain Great Again" - The Micro Focus Technology Manifesto) which is aiming to try and make sure that technology is the engine of the economy as we head into recovery.

I sort of had two hats at this event. I had ostensibly been invited as a political blogger but I am also director and co-owner of a technology company (Southfacing Services Ltd) which does consultancy and software for energy efficiency in buildings.

Now with these sort of events, my previous experience is mixed. Sometimes they are very good with clear messages and a well thought out strategy. Sometimes they are merely a talking shop with platitudes flying back and forth. This one for me fell somewhere between the two. There were some good ideas which I will detail below but there was a lot of talking up of UK PLC (in the way that politicians do!) which is fair enough but I felt some of that time could have been better spent in the 60 minutes we had on exploring some of the issues more fully. There were three Lords present (Lords Harris, Young and Razzall) as well as a couple of people from industry (Stephen Kelly from Micro Focus and Richard Holway of TechMarketView). They all did a speech and then it was opened up for questions.

The key points I took from the meeting and the answers to the questions are:
  • There was a very strong feeling that something has to be done to ensure that technology graduates have jobs to go to.
  • There needs to be a favourable tax environment for small companies.
  • If this country is ever going to get anywhere near the level of entrepreneurship of say the USA, then our banks need to be much more accepting of failure and giving second and third (and more) chances.
There was lots of other discussion as well. As this is the launch of the manifesto and they are still shaping it I hope that the feeling of the meeting will feed into this.

This campaign will apparently have a presence at the party conferences and they are hopeful that its key recommendations will be taken up as policies by the parties in their manifestos for the general election.

My overall feeling is that it was a good start and it is encouraging to see the cross-party support. I am interested to see how and if it gains traction with the parties in the run up to the election.

PS: Lord Harris has blogged on his own thoughts about the meeting here.

1 comment:

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

Commendable though this initiative is, we have heard the same thing for the last fifteen or so years. Recall Blair’s rallying cry for Silicon Fen to beat Silicon Valley - for Autonomy’s Mike Lynch to be quoted as saying, “Having Cambridge take on Silicon Valley is like having a Seagull fly into the engine of a 747”. (Lynch's qupte has entered myth but he says he was misquoted.)

A truth that needs to be taken into account is that entrepreneurs in the UK are content to build small scale niche enterprises - in contrast to many of their American counterparts for whom scale is a critical element. No doubt Government could do very much more though.