It's nice to talk about something positive for a change—and to meet a company actually trying to be positive about UK plc's prospects. Micro Focus collected a panel of the Great and Good to launch its Technology Manifesto for the UK. These were mostly peers with technology background and representing all political parties; although Richard Holway (Chairman of TechMarketView and probably a better hero for today's young people than, say, Alan Sugar or Richard Branson, one of the peers thought) was also included.
Stephen Kelly, Micro Focus' (American) CEO believes that "now more than ever, is the time for business, politics and academia to create more UK jobs [by helping to] produce a world-class IP-rich technology industry". After all, the UK currently focuses on rather static industries (public sector, declining manufacturing, derided financial services and leisure) with information technology (IT) following on behind—but IT is the only area which really seems ripe for growth.
The Manifesto is based around 5 points:
- Make IT more attractive to young people in the UK, increase the availability of vocational-style courses in Universities and create entry level jobs for them. If the only jobs available require people with at least 5 years experience, where do people get that experience? India?
- Nurture potential leaders of UK-founded, emerging, technology companies. A Web 2.0 "tech entrepreneur advice hub" perhaps; and/or a government-sponsored programme to link emerging entrepreneurs with established technology innovators; and/or study tours to see if we can learn from technology hubs in, say, the USA and France in order to build more "technology centres of excellence" in the UK.
- The perennial idea that we should change our tax structures to incentivise people who want to invest in growing technology businesses.
- Implement specific fiscal incentives for UK-founded tech companies that want to carry out world-leading R&D.
- Encourage international technology companies to invest in UK "centres of technology excellence" or "technology hubs" (such as that around Cambridge).
Well, that's the nub of it all, rather simplified. The full manifesto is available on the Web.
Do I have any concerns? Well, yes, follow through—although Micro Focus assures me this will happen. The strategy is to work to get this manifesto incorporated into the various political parties' election manifestos. This is a milestone which could be assessed around 2010/11. Based on the success, or otherwise, of the initial manifesto, does it need refactoring? Once the initial goals have been met, should new goals be formulated? Which manifesto-inspired initiatives have worked (and should be expanded); which haven't?
It would be a pity if this manifesto just faded away after the initial launch, although there is little reason to think it will—for now. I hope that Micro Focus arranges additional "progress report" press conferences every year at least.
Then there is the holistic view to consider I think this Manifesto is a good thing. But there may be a price to pay for making BrITain Great Again. Serial entrepreneurs who are allowed to fail have been great for American technology (although China is also leaping ahead and I'm not sure that failure is so popular there). But what about the, possible, sandwich companies, temping agencies, technology suppliers who may have had a cash flow crisis from each failure and gone out of business? Are the USA's financial governance scandals the dark side of an entrepreneurial, risk-taking culture? Are massive inequalities in wealth (which entrepreneurial cultures may encourage) associated with social problems in the general community? The manifesto is fine and making Britain great again is a laudable goal—but I think we need to remember that a healthy IT sector is not all that is involved in making the UK (I assume Ireland is included) great again.
Obtain the manifesto for yourself, and contribute your ideas, at its microsite.