The UK is a very good service industry, from corner shops to financial services. However, what we are also very good at is inventing – so why are we not seeing a boom of inventors taking their product to market?
Don’t get me wrong this is happening, but not enough. We live in an accessible global marketplace, where we have seen the rise of the amateur – taking an idea to the market with a few clicks with virtual partners around the world. It is the rise of this enlightened amateur that will disrupt the system integrators and service providers and then what will we be exporting? Don’t believe me look at FinTech, HealthTech and InsureTech to name a few.
Delivering advanced engineering solutions within tighter and tighter timescales, requires partnerships, multiple streams of parallel work, leveraging existing technologies not necessarily starting from scratch. Reducing risk of failure with proven technologies and working with experts to troubleshoot as early as possible. The System Integration approach has its place but risks evading the development of robust UK supply chains as parts are sourced overseas. Even more than this, the integrator (our middle-man) will be focussed on product delivery, not optimisation. I am constantly surprised when I am told that there is no IP because inevitably there is. The difference is that it isn’t necessarily with the same application, it may not be the hardware itself, it may be an unrealised solution (take a digital manufacturing process) that needs developing to something meaningful beyond the current project.
Myopia is prevalent, and the more narrowly businesses focus the more at risk from the globally connected entrepreneurs than ever before.
There is another story to give a different angle on this utopian view of a diversified ecosystem of a business model and that is ARM. ARM processors are in most connected technologies that we come into contact with on a day to day basis. Their head office remains in Cambridge, UK, however, they are an IP company focussing on licensing their designs for manufacture (typically overseas).
This is still creation even if it isn’t through to manufacture in-house. Firstly I love the design house model and something I’ve worked on with a number of companies. However, it does make me question what the economic impact locally and internationally of an IP rich country vs. a manufacturing rich country is? This question is beginning to pale into obscurity with the rise of digital manufacturing, additive manufacturing print on demand models and more, however, are we making the decisions today that ensure our inventors are still here tomorrow?