‘Business still experiences difficulties of access to universities. As Mr Wren-Hilton noted, one of the difficulties facing SMEs is knowing how to find out from universities and colleges what R&D is being pursued and who specialises in what innovation’.

As I continue my visit of the UK, my past keeps catching up with me. Whilst going through a pile of old papers yesterday, I came across a copy of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee – Fifth Report. It had been published back in July 2003.

The House of Lords in session

The House of Lords in session

The italised excerpt at the top of this post was taken from this Report. You can find an online version of the Report on the parliament.uk website here.

I had been invited by the Select Committee to provide evidence on behalf of the UK SME community. At the time, I was founder and Managing Director of HB Internet. I had established the company in 1995 and we were based in London. We employed approximately 20 web developers and had set up an offshore company, HBI Software, in Bangalore in 2001.

The purpose of the Select Committee was to investigate SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) and its role specifically around Science and the regions. There was quite a bit of reference to the role of RDAs (Regional Development Associations) and BusinessLink (now abolished). My specific brief was to give evidence, based on my experience, of different issues that the SME business community had with access to publicly-funded R&D.

Eleven years on, and some of the same fundamental issues remain. And it is not just a UK problem. It is one that I am very familiar with in New Zealand. It is quite a challenge for the private sector to easily assimilate just which Universities and Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) focus on specific areas of research and development. It requires quite a trawl of websites and other online resources to begin to scope out the answer.

I am not sure just where the recommendations of the Select Committee ended up. During the course of its investigation, I met some fascinating individuals. Today, all that is left is an old printed copy of the Committee’s report and some fading personal recollections of some interesting times.

Life, as they say, goes on. I am sure that there will be new committees set up, new reports commissioned. It is how Government works. It is not the recommendation that matters. It is the execution of the recommendation. That is the bit that is often missed out.

C’est la vie.

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