The Global Innovation Economy

Date06 December 2018
Published date06 December 2018
AuthorNigel Culkin,Richard Simmons
When people shake their heads because we are living in a restless
age, ask them how they would like to live in stationary one, and do
GB Shaw (1928)
Have you ever taken the time to consider how many of the products we use
today did not exist ten or fteen years ago? Many of the products that shape
our lives come from companies that did not exist until recently. The now ubi-
quitous Google, Facebook, Amazon, eBay and others had not been formed in
1990, and earlier innovators such as Microsoft and Apple were simply not
around in 1975. Equally, other big changeproduct companies of the last
35 years such as Samsung, Vodafone and Nokia transformed themselves from
business to business companies into consumer facing businesses in surprisingly
short periods of time. For example in 1980, Racal was a substantial UK defence
contractor (prior to merging its defenceoperationswithThompsontobecomea
constituent part of French Group Thales), that had some interest in the commer-
cial exploitation of defence technology through a patent link with Lord
WeinstocksGEC.Thiscommercialaspect of their business grew in import-
ance after 1985 with the launch of the mobile phone service that was to become
the global Vodafone phone business.
The spectacular growth and market breakthroughs of rising star mega
companies originated with the vision and persistence of entrepreneurs. In the
Racal case, it was long-term employee Sir Ernest Harrison who took the
entrepreneurial step to branch into a new business sector, away from what
was already a sizable defence contractor. The entrepreneurial groupcan
also be external to an existing company as, by way of contrast, is the case
with Google. This now giant corporation started small, by looking to com-
mercialise academic work by Larry Page and Steve Brin whilst at Stamford
University. At rst, Page and Brin tried unsuccessfully to sell their internet
page ranking system to other search engines such as Excite, before Stamford
University Professor David Cheriton introduced them to tech start-up
investor Andy Bechtolsheim who invested the rst US$100,000 in;
a company that was about to start its journey to the global megalith it is
Transformation and growth are realised as entrepreneurs see an oppor-
tunity and then set about persuading other people to help make it happen.
To translate an idea into reality, backing for a new idea has to be obtained
irrespective of whether the entrepreneur is within an existing company or
outside one and seeking venture capital. A key ingredient to success is to
have entrepreneurs with the vision, tenacity, ambition and skill to both drive
success and the ability to communicate their ideas in a way that motivates
others with crucial resources, (such as risk nance), to partner them on their
entrepreneurial quest.
Increasingly, short-term prot growth pressures within large listed
companies limit the scope for entrepreneurial action.
The torch there-
fore passes to private companies varying from large ones such as Dyson,
(a successful innovator for many years) to new or smaller MSMEs. Such
companies are especially important in a world of disruptive technology,
as rarely do they have existing business models to defend; on the con-
trary they offer opportunities to change the customer paradigm and
technological assumptions in products and markets àlaGoogle or àla
Aspiration and vision are crucial to their success. A 2017 survey of micro-
business in the UK found that only 22% wanted to build a national or inter-
national businessand just 47% expected to grow in the next year.
62% are planning to grow in the next three years (a percentage that is year
on year falling) and where a lack of ambition can ceteris paribus be often
associated with a lack of willingness to seek external nance.
Nurturing the ambition to succeed is a key UK growth and innovation issue.
92 Tales of Brexits Past and Present

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