Trevor Baylis, the inventor of the clockwork radio, David Potter, chairman of Psion plc, and the computer pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair told the Commons science and technology committee that business costs meant that home-grown ideas were often developed abroad.
Mr Baylis said more state aid was vital to maintain the British tradition of lone inventors. "My problem was that when I first had my idea, I had no help with preparing a business plan, patenting or even the astronomical cost of translation of patents.Without that help, how can a fellow protect himself from predators?"
Mr Potter, whose company now employs 1,200 staff thanks to the success of its personal organiser, said Britain suffered from a "cultural" problem with applied science that contrasted sharply with the US belief in "the dignity of practical knowledge".
Sir Clive said it was appalling that 50 per cent of all new products originated as British ideas but were developed overseas.