Boost for British software

BRITAIN - as last week's special edition of the Independent on Sunday's Business section pointed out - has an enviable reputation in computer software. But it is a fragmented industry, with some companies doing a lot better than others.

Raising the general standard and so helping young firms to achieve faster, sustainable and profitable growth is the aim of an initiative due to be launched this week. The idea is that this, in turn, will help the UK exploit the rapidly developing global market for software and information products.

The Software Business Network will be run by the CSSA - the trade association for the UK software, IT services and information industries - and is being sponsored for an initial three-year period by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Born of a meeting a year and a half ago at which representatives of various bodies discussed the problems of the industry, the network is designed to be a self-help group that will bring together entrepreneurs, business support organisations and financiers to create a dynamic and responsive software industry in Britain.

Andrew Mathew, the former head of a software and consulting firm who will be project manager, said the scheme would have three main elements: an information base, a regional network, and providing a service that "will actually make a difference to the profitable growth of younger companies".

The last would include advice on conducting competitive and market analyses; setting strategic goals; building better business and marketing plans; initiating team building; and evaluating progress.

"The global software market offers huge growth potential which we're not taking advantage of," he added. "Foreign investors know we have all the right skills and lure some of our best brains overseas. The SBN will help UK entrepreneurs play an integral role in the expansion of the software industry."