MPs: Government needs proper focus to foster tech success

The government lacks a strategic focus, and needs to concentrate on creating a strong technology industry, among other areas.

That is a verdict of the Public Administration Select Committee, which today published a highly critical report into the government's planning.

“The fostering of a strong economic and technological base is both a sound objective and enlarges strategic options,” said the report, for which university professors, business chiefs and other prolific figures were interviewed.

“Many of our witnesses argued that sectors of our economy should be viewed as strategic assets and that the government should take an active role in promoting these sectors.”

Professor John Kay, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, said in hearings for the report that the government needed to ask “what our competitive advantages are nationally in the economic sense”. He added that “framing our industrial economic policies towards those is a very sensible policy”.

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Sir David King, a director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, cited the US as an example of successful government support, saying: “There would have been no Silicon Valley in the United States without DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] funding.

"Public funding from the Defense Agency is what pulled through all of that technology in Silicon Valley”.

Oliver Letwin MP, minister of state, insisted that the government is “trying to play to our strengths as a nation and to push other countries to buy our best, from our best sectors, and try to strengthen those sectors further, rather than simply spreading our limited money round all sectors as if they are all as globally competitive as each other”.

The committee found overall that a lack of strategic thinking was resulting in a "patch and mend" approach to policy-making. The aims set out early by the coalition government had also been "too meaningless to serve any useful purpose", it added.