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Why can’t the UK create world-leading tech businesses?

This week the BBC is discussing the challenges of tech startups, scale-ups... and sellouts

· Entrepreneurship,Technology,Industrial Policy
Matt Brittin, Vice President of Google in Northern and Central Europe

This week the BBC is discussing and writing about the challenges of tech startups, scale-ups, and the lack of tech giants in the UK, including a piece by Google EMEA head Matt Brittin on why Brexit isn’t the main issues. Hung on the sale of ARM (see related post), the Today programme today ran this item just after 0730:

The microchip manufacturer ARM Holdings was sold to a technology firm in Japan. Critics of the deal say it shows a weakness in British industry which John Humphrys has been investigating.

Interviewees included Taavet Hinrikus of Transferwise, Jukedeck founder and CEO Ed Newton-Rex, technology investor Neil Woodford, and Eileen Burbidge, co-founder Passion Capital. In a related item at 0855, investor and policy thinker Sherri Coutu were interviewed about entrepreneurship.

It was all a bit hackneyed, though in the first item Burbidge rightly observed the role of the US state in shaping Silicon Valley, through post-War support for companies such as Lockheed Martin, and the time it took to develop its ecosystem. Hinrikus was very sanguine when asked about any offer to buy out Transferwise, saying ‘What would I do after going to the beach for the day? I’d be bored!’

In the second item Coutu was very optimistic about conditions for scale-ups, noting the UK can create world-leading tech businesses as it has talent, ecosystems, leadership coaching, and ‘patient’ capital.