There’s one big reason Britain lacks a Google-sized tech giant

Linda J. Dodson

Of course, it’s not just about raw spending power.

Effectively commercialising innovation and then defending it from being snapped up by overseas rivals are vital too.

Historically, this is an area where the UK could have performed better.

From Arm to Deep Mind, the AI firm acquired by Google, and Imagination Technologies, the chip group acquired by China’s Canyon Bridge, there is a long list of cutting edge UK technology companies which have been taken over before they have had the chance to emerge as national champions. 

Again, it’s hard to know how much of this may be cultural. Are UK entrepreneurs happier to sell out and enjoy the fruits of their labours at an earlier stage than their hungrier and more red-blooded peers in Silicon Valley?


UK must refuse to sanction sales of tech stars

While Elon Musk wants to colonise Mars, British business owners often seem happy enough to cash out for a Porsche and a nice country house.

But the relaxed attitude of policymakers – who have generally been content to stand by and watch as UK tech companies get gobbled up by US or Chinese predators – is an additional factor.

In this, Britain could certainly learn some lessons from overseas.

Maintaining an open, free market economy while defending your brightest and most innovative young companies from being snapped up before their time – potentially to your long-term economic detriment – is a difficult line to tread.

But America’s Committee for Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), which vets overseas takeovers, seems as good a model as any to protect national interests and valuable intellectual property from potentially hostile predators.

Chaired by the US Treasury Secretary, it effectively gives the government a veto over any deal deemed undesirable and enjoys considerable discretion to act as and where it sees fit.

More than anything it serves as a powerful deterrent, giving the US government a seat at the table in all transactions involving a foreign buyer.

It also enables US tech giants to grow in value as they snap up lesser companies.

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