It's not just the UK which has missed the technology boat

1 min read

​The BBC is embarking on a study of the UK's technology sector, asking such questions as why hasn't the UK created a Google or an Apple? It's also looking at the UK's investment community and similar questions.

The endeavour, being headlined as Tech Talent, has already determined the UK is 'appallingly bad' at funding start ups. With the greatest of respect to the BBC's team, that isn't news; as far back as the early 1980s, the electronics press in the UK was reporting that investors were only interested in the short term.

And perhaps that's one reason why the UK hasn't grown a technology company of scale, with the exception of ARM. While Silicon Valley had a collection of venture capitalists with the cash and the willingness to invest it, that level of support has traditionally been lacking in the UK. While the UK's VC sector has developed significantly since then, its focus today isn't technology per se.

We had potential world beaters. Companies like Icera, picoChip and Wolfson held significant positions in their particular markets, but failed to take that next step. You could argue that CSR started the Bluetooth boom, but it faltered as it tried to expand its horizons beyond making Bluetooth chips.

There were chances; established companies like GEC, Marconi and Plessey could have made the next step, but didn't. Emerging companies like Inmos tried, but failed. Ferranti held a technology lead with the Uncommitted Logic Array, the forerunner of what turned into the FPGA, but couldn't capitalise.

But, as the BBC rightly says, it's not just the UK that is wondering why it has apparently 'missed the boat' - many other countries are asking exactly the same questions.