The City of London has a love-hate relationship with engineering and has somewhat traditionally failed to recognise its value. The result is that there is nothing in British engineering today that resembles the levels of systemic support that exists in Germany, the United States, Japan and even China.
In addition to its scorn for engineering, the City also seems to have contempt for the tech industry. We only have to look at the United States to see what it looks like when modern tech is embraced. This is an unfortunate state of affairs because it hinders the UK’s attempts to keep abreast of the rapid technological change that is happening all over the world and is threatening the nation’s position as a global influencer.
It is possible to see this neglect with one’s own eyes: you only have to travel abroad to see the rapid, modern developments happening in rival powers Japan and China, as well as the technological activity in the US.
A long shadow over UK engineering prospects, and a short sight
This stagnation all comes back to two things: money and finance. In the UK, the long-term picture makes for sombre reading. Its financial system is simply not geared towards supporting businesses. Instead, it is all about property. In the UK, priority is given to supporting anyone with huge leveraged debt to purchase a house. The opposite is true if the ambition is to start a business — even for two hundred thousand pounds or so.
The UK markets just seem to have no real appetite for either engineering or tech. Anyone looking to raise money for a mining project out on the fringes of civilisation seems to have a greater chance than a start-up engineering or tech-based business.
The fundamental reason for this is: the UK markets are short-sighted. Anything beyond a year in length is too far ahead, which makes it very difficult to secure funds for long-term projects. The City of London focuses on profits first and then gives a low valuation on them. This is a far cry from the market view in the United States, which in which US businesses can build off of the back of years of losses.
Technology and engineering drives economic growth — The UK must do better
All the most ambitious and exciting engineering projects and technological developments take a lot longer than a year to come about. Which is why this short-term view is so damaging. If the UK is not up at the top, leading the way with innovation, then it is doomed to only be a consumer of the output and the success of other nations.
Every year it seems more and more UK companies are swallowed up by foreign companies offering better support. As these companies are swallowed up, so too is their core technology and skilful workers — these are all the long-term assets that the UK must hold on to if it wants to secure its future.
British companies are being swallowed up both by far-flung competitors like China, and our European counterparts. One only has to look at the UK stock market to see just how much its top tech companies are languishing there; with their valuations being only a slither of the price of what the US markets would value them at.
Ask yourself: Can you even remember the last time a British company bought up an overseas one? Things are languishing so badly that even the UK stock market itself is being eyed up by Hong Kong.
Use it or lose it: The legacy of Britain’s neglect for tech and engineering
It is clear that the UK simply does not appreciate either tech or engineering in the way that much of the world does. This short-sightedness is especially perilous because the world is moving at an increasingly fast pace. If the UK is ever to keep up, then it needs to show a lot more enthusiasm and put its money where its mouth is.
The legacy of the UK market’s apathy to tech is as easy as trying to look for the British equivalent of Google, or Amazon. No British equivalent exists, and so these giants pick the UK clean. There is, equally, no serious UK equivalent to Uber, or any of the big mobile apps such as Snapchat. Or even software tools such as Dropbox. There is no real British computer game industry, nor is there any real British AI companies, database giants and… the list goes on.
And yet, despite all this, the UK can still draw on a considerable pool a talent to go and work in these overseas, competitive companies. The talent and appetite still exists in the British labour force, but if this dire legacy continues, then that talent may too, after decades of apathy, in time, disappear.
By Ben Fielding
Ben Fielding is a writer, researcher, and copywriter for RJ Lifts, a lift maintenance, installation and construction company based in Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire. His writing appears on a diverse portfolio of business, construction, and architectural publications.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.