The government might argue there is no favouritism towards businesses inside the capital. However, I disagree.
When you are based in the capital city it’s easy to focus efforts on helping organisations within it. It becomes much easier to see their challenges first hand and engage with them more regularly than those beyond this locale. Also, for the government, there’s the temptation to trial new ideas and investment locally and use the results as a successful case study – a vindication of their policies and approach.
For example, in the technology space we operate in there is Silicon Roundabout in East London. It’s the UK’s hub of innovation, housing some of the most up-and-coming tech companies in London. The coalition has consistently raised the flag for businesses in this tech cluster, and invested a further £50 million in its development only last December, where about half of businesses are expected to break into profitability next year.
However, this investment has been limited to around 5,000 businesses in that space, so you have to ask the question: what about the hordes of successful technology firms scattered throughout the UK?
One of the UK economy’s biggest assets is the entrepreneurial spirit which sits at the heart of its technology and innovation sector. But this flare for uncovering new and exciting business streams is not limited to the capital. Rather, these are values that are showcased at their finest by an abundance of successful, market leading businesses operating out of the UK’s regions. What is critical is that policy and investment focuses on fostering growth in these businesses, not just in London, but across the country as a whole.
Remember, by definition, technology is portable and as its importance to the UK economy grows, so too will the entrepreneurs who will branch out into new locations that offer fresh opportunity. Furthermore, much technology can now be delivered remotely, via the cloud, so there’s less need to be physically near the customer.
Facts and figures
It is the issue of perception that’s the problem. The latest report out by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research stated the government underestimated the amount of UK based tech companies by 40 per cent. It’s this parochial and frankly outdated view that results in many regional firms being perceived as less innovative, slower and less successful than their central London counterparts.
This just isn’t the case; two in three of the country’s fastest growing businesses are based outside of London. Our Worcester-based business is a case in point, winning leading industry awards in the innovation and technology marketplace and global strategic partnerships with the likes of Canada Post. It’s a prime example of the good things that are happening out in the regions.
We all have the potential to be global businesses. Whilst it’s great to encourage start-ups, policies that do so must be bigger and more ambitious than London alone.
So my message to David Cameron: please don’t forget all those highly innovative businesses outside of the East London bubble. The entrepreneurial spirit and drive for success is as strong, if not stronger, among regional businesses as it is for those based in the capital.