British technology entrepreneur and inventor Sir James Dyson has laid out his plan for making Britain a great tech innovator – after being asked to help out the Conservative party ahead of this year's general election.
Dyson – perhaps best known for his vacuum cleaner – was asked by leader of the opposition David Cameron to come up with a way to bring Britain to the forefront of technology, and his plan deals with five ways in which the UK can fight its way back to the cutting edge.
The report says:
- Culture: The UK's science, engineering and manufacturing base has been neglected for decades. As a result they are undervalued and misunderstood. Government can change attitudes through encouraging research, delivering skills and backing significant infrastructure projects. It must make early and bold decisions on large scale engineering projects to demonstrate Britain's high tech ability.
- Education: Science, Design and Technology in schools have been marginalised and the UK is not producing enough scientists and engineers. We need to encourage more people to take up these subjects - and produce the best teachers to inspire them. Government should make teacher recruitment more flexible and encourage independent schools to share their expertise and experience with state schools.
- Universities: Globally, the UK excels at university based research, but a disjointed system means that little of our blue skies research is shared or used commercially by UK companies. Government should seek to reform how universities are funded and assessed to give them the flexibility to provide what students and companies want – such as shorter courses with industry experience.
- Financing start-ups: There is not enough entrepreneurial finance available to fund innovative UK companies. This has been exacerbated by the global recession. Government must use the power of government guarantees to encourage lenders to extend credit to small, inventive businesses.
- Supporting high tech companies: If the UK is to compete and prosper as Europe's leading technology exporter, we need to increase R&D investment. Tax credits must be refocused onto high tech companies, small businesses and new start-ups in order to stimulate a new wave of technology. When the public finances allow, the rate should be increased to 200%. The claim process must also be streamlined. These changes need not necessarily lead to a higher overall cost to the exchequer.
Among Dyson's recommendations to the Tories are the need to back projects like high speed rail and nuclear power, a return to teaching the three sciences separately and changes to the way University research is shared and companies are backed through the research and design stage.
Exciting and ambitious
"James Dyson's report represents an exciting and ambitious step forward in our desire to make Britain Europe's leading generator of new technology," said Conservative leader David Cameron.
"In it are the ideas that will help us create new, high-paying jobs right across our country. Dyson is one of Britain's biggest success stories and Sir James Dyson knows better than any bureaucrat how you start a business, build it up and start selling to the world – and he's put that knowledge into this blueprint for creating a generation of innovation and enterprise.
"And the bigger picture of these plans is a real gear change in the make up of the British economy. I want us to be the country that moves forward, that really starts making things again, that sees a world full of opportunity, a world covered in new markets for us to sell our goods and products and services to.
"I want us to be a country that stops just borrowing and buying from China and instead really starts selling to China.
"I'm excited about this future and I'm impatient to make it happen. From day one of a Conservative government we'll encourage the entrepreneurs who will start the businesses which will drive the industries which will create the high-paying jobs this country needs.
"The talent and the ideas are out there in Britain, the opportunities for trade are out there in the world – now we just need to get Britain open for business."