Gates visit highlights British IT failings
Experts say software talent is under-exploited
Sunday 12 October 1997
The visit of the Microsoft Don does not usher in a new golden age for British software and computer entrepreneurs, however. Rather, it highlights the problems standing in the way of converting Britain's tremendous software talent into a sector that can compete in the highly profitable global information technology industry.
During a two-day visit to the country - speaking to political and business leaders from Prime Minister Tony Blair on down - Gates repeatedly praised the research talent available in the UK, not only in Cambridge, but also in Scotland's Silicon Glen, as well as the more traditional Silicon triangle around Reading, Woking and Swindon.
In doing so, however, he focused attention on the dirty secret of British IT - its failure to keep pace with the trillion dollar industry of the US's Silicon Valley in California, and Microsoft's home base of Redmond, Seattle, as well as fast growing new centres of computing power like Budapest and Bombay.
The history of British information technology is littered with fallen idols, from Sir Clive Sinclair to Alan Sugar of the humbled Amstrad.
Government statistics say the computer software market and related services had sales of pounds 13.34bn in 1996, an increase of 16 per cent over 1995. Of this, a third was generated by retail spending, which is growing at approximately 12 per cent a year. The balance was spending by companies.
Most of the money spent in Britain on information technology, however, goes on products made by US and other foreign products. Home grown British technology takes only a small slice of the computing pie, especially in the personal computer market.
Besides this, the British market is small by global standards, and accounts for only a sixth of the Western European market - small beer by the standards of the US.
Does the Cambridge initiative mark a new beginning? What the new research laboratory will offer is the ability to mix research, entrepreneurial flare, and, when it is needed, interest from external capital.
On the research front, few would question the pedigree of the Gates initiative. Alan Turing, the Cambridge mathematician, was after all, the founder of modern computer theory - a tradition maintained by the computer sciences department.
Nor is entrepreneurial flair lacking - Cambridge already
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...