DTI knocks UK entrepreneurs for their 'poverty of ambition'

February 5, 1999

Entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom are "too easily satisfied" with their first million and suffer from a "poverty of ambition", according to Philip Treleaven of University College London.

Professor Treleaven took part in a Department of Trade and Industry mission to study industrial and academic enterprise in India, Israel, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United States. In a speech at a Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals conference on technology transfer next week, Professor Treleaven will say that the United Kingdom is still a place where "success is despised".

He is critical of university "incubators" that aim to carry out leading-edge research and create companies on the back of promising work. "There are some successful examples, but there is a tendency for institutions to use them as little more than serviced offices renting out space," he said.

In general, the mission found UK education and research compares very favourably with countries visited by the DTI team. "It is that little bit after, the innovation and exploitation, that is missing," Professor Treleaven said.

In Taiwan and the US, most academics take it for granted that they should conduct research with a view to its commercialisation. "In the UK, we are still fighting the battle to encourage this," Professor Treleaven said.

Among "high-technology paradises" the mission visited was Silicon Valley, where there are serial entrepreneurs and a strong financial and legal support industry. At MIT, there are courses and clubs for entrepreneurs. In Taiwan there is no tax for start-ups, while Israel has "real, highly focused" government and private incubators. In Bangalore, home to 250 high-tech firms, the software sector is booming because of a highly educated, low-cost workforce.

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