Saturday, March 15, 2008


Chancellor Alistair Darling’s debut Budget apart, the dreariest news this week was the Government’s White Paper entitled Innovation Nation, supporting The Race to the Top.
Reading it is like wading through treacle, but the message is clear enough: using quangos old and new (sorry, innovative), it’s a grand plan to support vested interests like universities, who are always lobbying for more money for ‘research,’ and make sure really good ideas get wasted and lost in a bureaucratic quagmire.
For a start the language of this dreary tome is enough to put off the text generation who use their own brand of vowel-less shorthand.
‘Immediate steps include a commitment for each Government department to publish an Innovation Procurement Plan as part of its commercial strategy. This will set out how departments will embed innovation at the heart of procurement practices encouraging them to engage with businesses at an early stage. (DIUS), the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) and the Business Council for Britain.’
These words mean zilch except a red light to any of those bright kids who are using social networking sites to create their own businesses where they find demand and gaps in the market.
They should steer well clear of the White Paper, which gets even worse, promising the ‘doubling the number of knowledge Transfer Partnerships between businesses, universities and colleges to boost competitiveness and productivity alongside a greater exchange of innovation expertise between the private sector and the Government led by the DIUS and the TSB.’ (That’s the Transfer Strategy Board!)
They will be old men and women on poverty pensions and their ideas will have been lost or destroyed before they get support from any of the White Paper’s ‘five platforms’ or any of the ‘innovation vouchers’ supposed to help small and medium sized businesses provided - and here’s the catch - they work with a university, further education college or research organisation of their choice to develop a new product or service.
Many of the richest, most successful innovators never went near a campus. They were too busy growing their businesses to waste time letting academics interfere with them.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates and his friends fled Harvard fast to get their business started before any academic could meddle with their ideas.
The way it was before the credit crunch, bright youngsters could go to a bank for money when their businesses were really starting to grow. But the banks don’t lend any more and at least half of them don’t know where the money they have lent is. Soon there may be very few, if any, left.
The best thing anyone with a really good idea can do is to ignore the Government and its jobsworth self-serving quangos and go straight to industries desperate for new ideas.
They could also seek financial backing from The Prince’s Trust. For all his whining Prince Charles has an excellent record of supporting young people who need money to develop their business ideas. Setting it up was the best thing he’s ever done.
If you want your ideas to get anywhere, Royal patronage is far safer bet than risking them in a scheme promoted by a Government headed by Gordon Brown, who as Chancellor lost Britain billions by selling off a vast chunk of our gold reserves when the price was rock bottom. His bright idea was that no one would want gold ever again and Britain had too much of it.
Now the whole world can’t get enough gold and the price is sky high. Some bright idea. Some Government to trust with yours.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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