In the News

How to grow a business idea

Penny Brooks

11th December 2016

British inventors are renowned for having good ideas, and many of these come out of the research departments of British universities. There is a rich seam of potential new, dynamic businesses, which could boost the country's lagging productivity. And this matters because, in the International Monetary Fund's league table of business investment as a percentage of national income the UK comes one-hundred-and-fifty-second, tucked in between Bosnia and Madagascar.

That sounds pretty shocking, and it matters, as the BBC's Simon Jack pointed out in an item at the end of last week. If workers become more productive, employers can afford to pay them a bit more, their living standards increase, and the government gets more tax revenue, which can be spent on health care, education, better roads and infrastructure.... all those things that we need government to spend money on.

In the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Autumn Statement last month, Philip Hammond pointed out that French workers produce more in four days than UK workers do in five. A key reason is identified as our relatively low spend on Research and Development, which is way behind the spending by French and German businesses. This is exemplified by the good news and bad news about nearly £300billion which has been invested in the Oxford Sciences Innovation Fund in the last year. This business incubator takes some of the best innovations to come from Oxford University's research labs, and uses investors' money to develop them into the cutting edge growth businesses of the future. So far so good - but sadly not a penny of that investment has come from British businesses.

The university's vice chancellor Professor Louise Richardson, describes this as 'disappointing'. What it means is that those overseas investors will reap the rewards of profits that might come from developing the research into profitable business, and the brightest talents and ideas fostered in UK universities will largely accrue to the benefit of overseas companies. Does this sound like a lost opportunity?

Penny Brooks

Formerly Head of Business and Economics and now Economics teacher, Business and Economics blogger and presenter for Tutor2u, and private tutor

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