Can the conservative government turn the UK into a leading high tech exporter?

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Now that David Cameron is officially in the hot seat after we were all hung out to dry (mind the pun) whilst the conservative and liberal democrat parties were negotiating the ins and outs of our new parliament, it remains to be seen whether he will take onboard any of the recommendations laid out in the ‘Ingenious Britain’ report.

The conservative party commissioned Sir James Dyson last October to produce a report setting out proposals to make Britain the leading high tech exporter in Europe. For Dyson, who published his report in March, action couldn’t come soon enough: “Now, more than at any time over the past twenty years, I sense there is a real opportunity to set a new vision for our economy. To do this, a new government must take immediate action to put science and engineering at the centre of its thinking – in business, industry, education and, crucially, in public culture.”

Dyson realises, however, that there are no magic bullets but he has set out five key challenges that the Conservative government must tackle if Britain is to generate and export more technology:

  • Culture: Developing high esteem for science and engineering
  • Education: Getting young people excited about science and engineering
  • Expoliting knowledge: Collaboration, not competition, between universities, companies and not-for-profits
  • Financing high tech start-ups: Turning good ideas into world beating products
  • Supporting high tech companies: Creating the right conditions for R&D investment.

He sums this up by saying: “We need more entrepreneurs. We need more innovators. We need more scientists, engineers and designers who can turn ideas into working products. We need to be better at supporting the ecosystems that transfer new ideas from universities and which incubate new firms. We need an education system that equips young people and germinates the seeds of industrial ambition in them. And we need government to support innovating firms, especially smaller ones, both through the tax system and the power that comes from being Britain’s single largest customer.”

Dyson certainly got a few high profile people on side by publishing his report. One of these being Sir Anthony Bamford, Chairman of JCB, the renowned British manufacturer of heavy industrial and agricultural vehicle, who says: “I know from my personal experience over many years that Britain is a great place to design and engineer products for customers all over the world. Talent and creativity are not in short supply in this country – what we lack is a forward-looking supportive framework for companies that want to translate invention into enterprise. All British manufacturers will welcome James Dyson’s report, and in particular his proposal for enhanced tax credits on research and development. James is to be congratulated for flying the flag for British industry at a time when it really needs to be championed.”

This 59 page report certainly makes for interesting reading and at the time of publication the Conservative Party said that it strongly welcomed its conclusions. But lets hope this is not all talk and we actually see some of Dyson’s recommendations actually coming to life and policies being instigated that will move the UK up the value chain.

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You can download the pdf of the report here and take a read yourself.


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