Are the French supporting start ups better than the UK?

1 min read

I wondered in a recent blog whether the UK was missing a trick when it came to supporting start ups. My question came after a demonstration of the success of La French Tech, established in 2013 with a €200million investment by the French government.

The demonstration in question was the opening by President Francois Hollande of the City of Connected Objects – an 8300m2 facility in Angers dedicated to developing devices for the IoT.

In his remarks, President Hollande pointed out that five of the 12 most popular connected objects in the US are French. What he didn't do was to ennumerate them: nonetheless, you wonder how many of those 12 devices are UK designed.

But the UK does have ambitions when it comes to the IoT; Chancellor George Osborne committed another £40m in March 2015 for 'demonstrator programmes, business incubator space and a research hub to develop applications for Internet of Things technologies in healthcare and social care, and Smart Cities'. That was, of course, in the last Parliament; will that commitment manage to survive in this Parliament?

La French Tech seems to have its act together – it's backed by major multinationals, venture capital companies and seed funds and brings together academic organisations. But it doesn't appear that the UK has a similar set up, so are we missing a trick?

The UK, of course, does have support organisations for start ups. London, for example, is said to have 36 incubators of various 'shapes' – perhaps the best known is Tech City, which is also called the Silicon Roundabout. There are a further 24 such organisations spread across the rest of the country, with hubs in places such as Cambridge, Edinburgh, Bristol and Birmingham. Networks such as Cambridge Wireless, Silicon South West and the Catapult centres also exist.

Entrepreneurs are a particular type of person and may not always need a support network in order to get an idea off the ground. But not everyone has those skills and, if you have a good idea, where do you start? Providing start ups with access to one organisation that can meet all their needs seems a good idea. Perhaps we should take a look across the Channel.