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7/12/2013
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U.K. Lags In Tech Innovation Credibility

KPMG Global Technology Innovation poll finds few global business leaders see the U.K. as a tech hub, underscoring Britain's urgency to change its reputation and attract investors.

Even as the U.K. debates how to create a secure digital future for itself, and London tries to muscle in on the tech ecosystem, the week is ending on quite a downbeat note: The country's tech industry and its contribution have come out very badly in a global peer review.

The latest version of an ongoing poll by advisory firm KPMG on Global Technology Innovation, released Friday, said the country is not seen by the global community as a tech leader.

Indeed, the U.K. was named by only 1% of respondents as a future launch pad for disruptive breakthrough. It tied with Russia at number 9 on the list, well behind the leader, the U.S., named by 37% of survey respondents.

Some 24% of the sample base -- comprised of 811 technology business leaders worldwide from technology industry startups, midsize to large enterprises, venture capital firms and angel investors -- named the People's Republic of China, while 10% fingered India, followed by Korea (7%), Japan (6%) and Israel (6%).

[ Whitehall says it's saving money through better technology, but many say that's not accurate. See Critics Question U.K. Government Tech Gains. ]

Commenting on the nation's low poll rating, Tudor Aw, KMPG's European head of technology, said, "the global tech community does not see the U.K. as hotspot for future technology innovation."

That's surprising -- and possibly unfair -- he argued, as it "underestimates" the tremendous "talent, creativity and favorable conditions" the British technology scene has to offer. "Good examples of this include graphene, seen as a technology that will revolutionize the 21st century," or Britain's ARM semiconductors used in so many smartphones.

But, in what is beginning to become something of a chorus, it's not hard to see why Britain may not be playing to its strengths. The two key factors cited as necessary for driving tech innovation -- availability of talent and access to funding -- are once again seen as lacking for Her Majesty's subjects.

KPMG says only 44% of U.K. tech executives surveyed for the 2013 Index said talent is sufficiently accessible to them, compared to 75% of executives in India and 62% in China. Only 23% of U.K. respondents considered their country's education system to be successfully contributing to driving innovation -- the lowest number of any nationality. Meanwhile, only 41% of U.K. executives said they think that tech infrastructure is sufficiently accessible, compared to 67% in the U.S. and 69% in India. Also, only one in three Brit executives agreed that they have sufficient access to funding, compared to 78% in India.

For Aw, the way forward has to be for "U.K. Plc" to both "do a better job of promoting Tech U.K. as a brand overseas so people understand all the strengths we have, as well as our existing world leading capability," plus try and ensure sufficient resources are placed on the right kind of education.

That, he stressed, has to be one that will support hardcore technology innovation and development -- "not just how to utilize technology applications," a reference to the ongoing debate in the U.K. about how to get youngsters interested in building apps, not just playing with them.

This study maybe bears a comparative read against last week's similar Global Innovation Index, which ranks innovation performance among countries and encourages local innovation. In this year's report, published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the U.K. did much better, coming in third place, with the U.S. at five and Switzerland at pole position.

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