Change in the air

Elections, like changing a CEO or bringing in a management consultancy or branding agency, create new opportunities, fresh momentum.

That’s what the country and businesses need. Britain faces numerous challenges, not least that it’s currently spending £43 billion on servicing interest on national debt (expected to rise to £74 billion, over 10 per cent of tax revenues, by 2014/15), which is more than it currently takes in from corporation tax, or spends on the armed forces. Industrial action is striking back, damaging transport and business recovery. This is not a way to run a business, let alone a country. The cash flow is not looking good – and soon the banks will be knocking again. With the UK in the red, it’s no wonder the recent Budget saw the Labour front bench avoid ties and clothing of that colour, replacing them somewhat oddly with purple, the colour of ancient Rome. Perhaps it’s a symbol of the last days of a crumbling empire.

The current Chancellor has promised to double entrepreneurs’ relief, to patch up the damage caused by the changes to taper relief, but this ‘double relief’ will turn into massive relief when a new government gets in. The Conservatives are promising to cancel a planned national insurance rise, bring in PAYE holidays for new businesses and set up a scheme of home energy loans to help Britain catch up on the so-called green economy. The Liberal Democrats are hoping to become kingmakers. As they say, democracy is the best way of changing a government without a civil war.

Meanwhile, business needs a government to foster growth, and drive economic wealth rather than tax it into oblivion. It needs banks to actually lend money to new businesses and grants that are effective in delivering much needed research and development (R&D). Last year we spent a vast amount of time applying for such research grants to accelerate our clean technology R&D activities and collaborations with universities – but to no avail. The banks likely had all the money – and grant awards were in short supply.

Global business appears to be back to normal. An upsurge in demand has transformed production and semiconductor supply chains in the past few weeks as global companies start producing iPads and other new gadgets again in their zillions, and start thinking about new collaboration and partners.

Similarly, the dark side of commerce – the grey economy of fakers, product infringers, and scammers seems to be booming. Our emails are inundated with web registration domain scams, dubious hotmail/gmail account retailers or distributors, or worse headhunters and recruiters, unheard-of publications seeking advertising, all plying their wares.

This month sees the start of China and Hong Kong tradeshows, which like the online business exchanges, too often showcase products which turn out to breach global patents or intellectual property rights. Occasionally at these events we see a major retailer try and buy a fake version of our products, without checking or undertaking even the slightest amount of due diligence. We’ve even found infringing companies at shows who have our photographs on their business cards and brochures with crude Photoshop edits. One Australian seller even asked us what gave us the right to the product anyway. Well, perhaps the fact that we designed and invented it, patented it worldwide, and own the copyright and trademarks being copied on the packaging.

Maybe it’s a response to the general malaise or corruption in politics, or a fall out from collapsed financial markets, but such grey market activity seems to be a growing issue in a web-connected world where anyone can buy and sell globally. Overall, there is a lack of trust in the networks, markets, churches and governments around the world.

Perhaps it’s finally time for Prince Charles and the monarchy to take over for a couple of years, or have a temporary dictatorship in the UK, instead of being forced to choose between a mismatch of political parties saying similar things that are treated with scepticism by the public and business. It’s time for Charlie, a new great exhibition and a revival of British industry and invention.

Simon Daniel

Simon Daniel

Simon Daniel is the inventor of the USB battery and folding keyboard. He was also CEO of Moixa, the renewable energy group.

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