A worldwide survey of technology business leaders has revealed that the next big technological breakthrough is unlikely to come from the UK or Europe.
The 2013 KPMG Global Technology Innovation Survey found that only one per cent of 811 respondents thought that the UK have the potential to deliver the next disruptive breakthrough in technology, compared to 37 per cent in the US, 24 per cent in China and 10 per cent in India.
Small countries such as Israel and Singapore were also viewed more favourable than the UK and the rest of Europe, with six per cent and three per cent of votes respectively.
“Of course people think about the big boys when they think of innovation. Europe is a bit of an after thought,” said Tudor Aw, technology sector lead for KPMG Europe. “When people stand back and think about technology, of course they think about Silicon Valley and the US, then they think about some of the other tech centres, and China in particular.”
“I think a lot of that is to do with the noise of everything else going on in Europe. All we hear is debt problems. It is that test of ‘what is the first thing that comes into your mind when I say Europe?’ Innovation is probably not a word that jumps to mind,” added Aw.
Aw argued that work needs to be done to promote the UK tech brand overseas and help people understand where the UK excels.
For example, graphene – a new material with promising properties that was discovered in the UK at Manchester University – is an innovation that could have international significance.
However, the UK risks failing to capitalise on this next-generation ‘wonder material’ as the number of patents for it in the UK pales in comparison to those held for it in China and the US.
Worldwide there were a total of 7,351 graphene patents filed by the end of last year, according to the figures published by a UK copyright consultancy, CambridgeIP in January. Of these, UK businesses and universities held only 54, compared to 2,204 in China and 1,754 in the US.
Capital and talent
According to those surveyed, the two most important things to enable tech innovation are access to capital and availability of talent.
Again, UK executives were less happy than their international peers when it comes to availability of resources.
For example, only 44 per cent of UK tech executives said that talent is sufficient and accessible to them, compared to 76 per cent in India and 62 per cent in China. Meanwhile, only 33 per cent of UK executives believe have sufficient access to funding, compared with 78 per cent in India.
The survey also found that only 23 per cent of UK respondents consider the education system to be successfully contributing to driving innovation, less than executives from all other major economies surveyed.
However, 70 per cent of UK respondents said they see the UK as being just as innovative as any other nation in the world.
Going forward sixteen per cent of UK respondents said they intend to employ at least 100 staff in the next year, compared to only 11 per cent in China and 6 per cent in the US.
The online survey was conducted between April and June 2013. It included 811 business executives from around the world, with thirty-four per cent from the Americas, 37 per cent from Asia-Pacific and 30 per cent from EMEA.