14 December, 2015 - 15:40 By Tony Quested

Even ARM and Dyson cannot pep UK’s innovation status!

For the fifth successive year not one UK business made the Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators.

Considering that we operate under the impression that the best thing the UK is good at is coming up with brilliant IP this might, at first sight, appear to be demoralising news.

Even more worrying was that the news release conveying this apparent hammer blow was introduced as follows: “Thomson Reuters today released its 2015 Top 100 Global Innovators, revealing that no UK companies featured on the list.”

Piling on the agony it added: “10 French companies made the 2015 list, up from seven last year. Germany has four entrants and Switzerland is represented by three companies. In total, 20 organisations from Europe are featured, with the UK absent from the list for the fifth year running.”

Well done the UK. Not even within reach of Switzerland. Five years of innovation failure? Some kind of record perhaps. First open that wound then apply the salt – “British companies Dyson and ARM were both near misses ranking just outside the Top 100,” Thomson Reuters adds.
I’m, sorry to appear cynical but while I don’t expect Dyson to consistently fill a vacuum, I know that the world’s leading technology innovators would not be able to step out of bed in the morning were it not for ARM’s continuously evolving IP brilliance. So I sent a few facts to Thomson Reuters.

1 UK technology businesses are benefiting from increasing amounts of investment – with new research from London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s inward investment agency, revealing that the UK has attracted more VC investment from Silicon Valley based investors than any other major European country over the last five years, having completed 290 deals, worth a combined total of around $4.2 billion.

2 London-based technology companies attracted almost half (45 per cent) of all deals into the UK from Silicon Valley, totalling $1.9 billion, more than Paris, Madrid and Amsterdam combined.

3 Venture capital investment into Britain’s technology sector reached a record high this year with $2.2bn raised by UK firms. These investors are clearly sniffing something to be wasting their money on such a deadleg country of innovators.

4 Apple has just paid close on $100 million for Cambridge UK speech recognition company VocalIQ; Amazon – ranked by Thomson Reuters – has hoovered up Evi in the same segment; highly-rated Google snapped up Deep Minds, a Cambridge University spin-out.

There are lots of other multi-million dollar acquisitions of Cambridge innovation pioneers that we could log from Asia and US buyers. Also, Cambridge University appears to remain the first stop for global governments and corporates who want to leverage world-leading innovation. Thankfully they are not put off by reports such as this.

Thomson Reuters said the following factors continued to affect the UK’s standing:
• The UK has a lower gross domestic expenditure on R & D (GERD) than the countries represented in the Top 100 Global Innovators, with the UK’s GERD of 1.63 per cent comparing unfavourably to global competitors like Japan (3.47 per cent) and France’s (2.23 per cent). 
• Innovation incentives introduced in the UK, such as Patent Box legislation, have not been in place long enough to have had a significant impact. China was also noticeably absent this year after making its first appearance in 2014.

I’m sorry – and I acknowledge here the excellence of Thomson Reuters for much of what it does – but the world cannot be wrong. Cambridge boasts the leading cluster of product design and development consultancies on the planet covering medical science and a broad raft of technologies. Why is that? Because we cannot innovate? No – exactly because we can.

With due respect, the Toronto and New York-based Thomson Reuters might consider adjusting its metrics. A new pot of coffee is brewing  – perhaps they should wake up and smell it.
 

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