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Increasing investment in tech – how can the UK reignite its innovation spark?

Steve Burt
13/01/17
Innovation in the UK

The UK was once the most inventive, innovative country on earth. Kicking off the Industrial Revolution in the mid-late 18th century, and lasting way into the 20th, the UK was a hub for the likes of James Watt, Isembard Kingdom Brunel, Frank Whittle, and John Logie-Baird. 

However, in 2015 the UK filed for less patents than both France and Germany, so it begs the question, what can be done to reignite the British innovation spark? We’ve had a look across the globe to see what pages can be taken from their books…

USA

With over half a million patents filed in 2014, the USA are only surpassed in patent applications by China, whilst their nearest competitor is Japan, with 325,000 filed in the same year.

So what puts the USA head and shoulders above the rest of the western world? It starts with their research centres. With the likes of Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) being world class hubs for science and tech, the USA puts a big emphasis (and invests vast sums of money) on the research and development of tech. 

This has been a (relatively) recent development, it was during the Second World War that government funding was boosted for scientific development. This was added to further with the arrival of the Cold War and Space Race in the late 1950s, American government-funded research went from strength-to-strength and hasn’t looked back. 

Germany

Germany’s manufacturing base makes up 23% of their GDP, dwarfing the UK’s 11%. This has put the Germans in a terrific position of industrial power. 

Stemming from a Deutschmark that was undervalued and with a huge amount of work to achieve post-WW2, the Germans have a myriad of small, often family owned manufacturing companies. These companies have planned for the long-term, taking pride in the production of stereotypically German high-quality, reliable goods. 

This is cemented by an emphasis of ‘on the job training’ and apprenticeships that are admired around the world. Such strong ties between education, industry and the German banking sector have guaranteed long term funding for vocational courses of this sort to ensure manufacturing remains world-class.

Norway


In stark contrast to the American Capitalist model, Norway’s socialist structure has allowed tech firms in the country to thrive, with some of the highest rates of start-ups in the world and more entrepreneurs per capita than the USA.

The reason being that as a result of high taxes, Norwegians needn’t worry about things like healthcare, pensions and schooling, allowing them to embark on what might otherwise be seen as risky business ventures. 

By looking at taxes as a lifelong investment, it allows start-ups to pay more, and working days to be shorter- actually increasing the productivity of the workforce whilst regularly featuring in the top three happiest and prosperous countries. 

South Korea


In South Korea, 97% of people have access to broadband, whilst the country leads the world in research and development spending with 4.29% of GDP in 2014. This combination is allowing young tech firms to grow at an unprecedented rate.   

Young technologists, after studying abroad, are returning to fuel the start-up boom. Leading the world in mobile and videogame development, South Korean entrepreneurs are both promoted and supplemented by the South Korean Government. This is all following the desire of President Park Geun-Hye to develop a “creative economy”. 

With government funding and the technical backing of companies’ like Google promoting South Korean businesses in the USA, the tech start-ups can go from strength to strength over the years to come. 


With a whole host of ways to increase innovations in the UK, realistically which would work? Are there other models worldwide that the UK could adopt? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section! 

Read our related blog: 6 soft skills every tech professional needs

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