Lord Heseltine put forward his case to ministers today on how Britain can secure long-term growth for the future, and called fon government to give more attention to scientific research and the technology sector.
Julian David, director general of Intellect, the UK’s trade association for the technology sector, told Computerworld UK that Heseltine’s recommendations were ‘very encouraging’.
Top llevel recommendations from the Tory party grandee include distributing more control to local government and the private sector, as well as creating a National Growth Council that should be chaired by David Cameron.
However, within the technology sphere, Heseltine said: “The government should go further in its plans to build strategic relationships with industry, ensuring that the long term impact on technological advantage and the UK industrial base are taken into account in the procurement of specialist technologies.”
He also called for commitment to the long-term stability of the core funding of science and research and said that the UK needs to ensure that businesses can build and take advantage of the technologies of tomorrow.
Intellect’s David said that the review’s message is an important one that ministers should be considering.
“We are very interested in the view that we are competing on a global stage. We are competing with countries and economies that are investing in technology-based capital goods, skills, and the application of technology,” he said.
“It’s making their industries more productive than ours, making them better able to scale. As the leading trade association in the country across the whole technology spectrum we absolutely echo this message.”
Intellect submitted evidence as part of Heseltine’s review.
However, despite being pleased with the result, David also recognises that there are still a number of challenges facing government and the tech sector.
He said: “We have got to be able to take our university academic research, which we are very good at, and translate that into real innovation, growth and productivity. We are not as good as the US and Germany at doing this.
“The UK has a healthy number of start-ups, that’s not the problem. It’s the next phase of companies that’s the problem – it’s about taking businesses to that mid-size. The number of UK-based FTSE technology companies has gone down significantly in the past ten years.”
He added: “You need large companies engaged with government too. You often hear from government that large companies aren’t good, it’s only small companies that are innovators, and that’s simply not true.”
Another important recommendation Heseltine made was that trade associations, such as Intellect, should be used to ensure that a deeper understanding of the issues and opportunities involved.
Heseltine recommends that government should nominate a trade association for each sector to engage with – a move that Intellect welcomes.
“Government shouldn’t be talking to individual associations about tiny things, but should be talking to them across a whole sector, coordinating with a lead trade association. That absolutely makes sense,” said Intellect’s David.
He added: “We are quite up for working with our colleagues in the trade association spectrum. If you don’t coordinate you don’t get a strategy in place across the whole sector.”