Government support for UK tech firms “an embarrassment”

CES event organiser Gary Shapiro has claimed the UK Government’s lack of support for start-ups attending the show is a “source of embarrassment”.

According to a BBC  report, Mr Shapiro (pictured giving his keynote speech at this year’s CES, which is celebrating its 50th year) compared the UK with France, the Netherlands and Israel, with nearly five times as many French companies attending this year’s CES as British ones.

He said there had been an annual increase in numbers over the past few years, thanks to Paris making a greater effort to help its entrepreneurs.

“Now we’re starting to see other countries take notice,” added Mr Shapiro, who is also president of the Consumer Technology Association.

“We’ve seen the Netherlands and others going in there big time [this year]. Britain’s been a little slow to the game honestly. We have a minister from Britain coming, but there’s not a lot of activity that we’ve seen at CES. I think it’s a source of embarrassment.

“When I was in London recently, I raised it with one of the ministers, and they said, ‘Yeah, it’s amazing. I can get approval to go to [Texas festival] South by Southwest, but because it’s Las Vegas, for some reason it’s frowned upon.’ And that’s a pretty short-sighted attitude.”

However, the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) said it was providing “targeted support”.

A spokeswoman for DIT said: “The UK continues to be a world leader in the tech and innovation industry, and events like CES can provide UK businesses with vital contacts to build their brand abroad.

“We want to help UK businesses make the most of trade and investment opportunities, including in the US, through targeted support and bespoke business matching that better maximises their presence to win vital contracts abroad.”

The minister for digital and culture, Matt Hancock, will be in attendance for half a day, meeting British exhibitors before travelling on to meet music industry leaders in California.

Paul Hide
Paul Hide

TechUK’s director of operations Paul Hide said that supporting UK tech start-ups is more important than ever if the UK wants to prove it is still “open for business”.

“TechUK will be at this year’s CES show to grow stronger relationships with our international partners,” he said. “In a post-EU referendum world, it is important that UK tech companies have export support and access to overseas markets, as well ensuring the UK remains an attractive place for international companies to invest in.

“CES now covers a broad range of technology areas and provides a platform to truly showcase that UK remains open for business. One area we expect to see dominate in Las Vegas is smart technology, from the home right through to transport automation. Through our SmarterUK programme, techUK already champions the societal and economic benefits of innovation in this space and at CES we will be demonstrating how the UK can be a global powerhouse in smart infrastructure development and the export of smart products and services.

“TechUK believes that an increased focus on supporting UK-based tech companies is more important than ever. We are pleased to see Matt Hancock [Minister of State for digital and culture policy] attending this year and will work alongside the Government to continue to support the growth of our UK technology sector across the global marketplace.”