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Topic Title: ET Magazine - Debate - Britain's competitive edge
Topic Summary: This house believes that Britain has lost its competitive edge in the design of innovative new products
Created On: 22 February 2012 10:52 AM
Status: Read Only
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 22 February 2012 10:52 AM
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jpwilson

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For:
This house believes that Britain has lost its competitive edge in the design of innovative new products.

Against:
This house believes that Britain hasn't lost its competitive edge in the design of innovative new products.
 25 February 2012 03:27 AM
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Ipayyoursalary

Posts: 265
Joined: 21 November 2009

Has Britain has lost its competitive edge in innovative design?

For: Rob Holdway is director of http://www.giraffeinnovation.com/, described by the Guardian as one of the UK's top 'green' businesses (Specialising in Sustainable design, Environmental legislation compliance and carbon footprinting).


Rob, how does it help business competitiveness to be weighed down by masses of unnecessary green regulations, green taxes and energy bills inflated by green policies? Especially when competitors in India and China don't have any of these burdens? (I'm talking about regulations on emissions of harmless CO2 gas here - not sensible regulations against genuine pollutants)

Seriously Rob; What does 'green' business have to do with innovation? Isn't it all about subsidy farming and milking the regulatory system? Surely the only "competitive edge" a green business needs is a lobbying firm with good contacts at Westminster, a good PR outfit to promote their solution to the latest over-hyped eco-scare - And Bingo - you're showered with taxpayers money for 25 years. Meanwhile, real businesses, producing products that people actually want, have to struggle to survive under the burden of green taxes and higher energy bills.

Considering the level of green taxes and regulations in the UK, and the lamentable state of our industry and economy, I'd say 'green' businesses have been very successful at exploiting this particular market Rob. Congrats!

Edited: 25 February 2012 at 03:36 AM by Ipayyoursalary
 25 February 2012 04:41 AM
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TomThomson

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The competitive edge in innovative design has largely gone simply because British society lost its respect for the people who provided that competitive edge, so people who worked at providing that edge had pretty low status and mostly also had pretty poor reward compared with people who did not provide any innovation; part of the problem was that the attitude to stocks and shares in teh London market changed: instead of investment being driven by the ability of the company being invested in to deliver a profit and decent dividends, it became largely based on a perception of how investors would regard the stocks/shares to allow short term capital gains to be made purely on the basis of accurately predicting stock market sentiment instead of on the basis of investing in a company that would create wealth. A side effect was that some companies could become highly valued even when in any realistic view their assets were worthless, and thus because willing to offer large rewards to employees who could obtain significant increases in the quantity of worthless assets held, which led to something very close to economic collapse and has left us with an economic climate in which investment in innovation is restricted because it is very difficult to borrow money to develop new things.

-------------------------
Eur Ing Tom Thomson MA MSc MBCS CITP CMath FIMA CEng FIET
 25 February 2012 09:59 AM
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jencam

Posts: 608
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Originally posted by: TomThomson
The competitive edge in innovative design has largely gone simply because British society lost its respect for the people who provided that competitive edge, so people who worked at providing that edge had pretty low status and mostly also had pretty poor reward compared with people who did not provide any innovation; part of the problem was that the attitude to stocks and shares in teh London market changed: instead of investment being driven by the ability of the company being invested in to deliver a profit and decent dividends, it became largely based on a perception of how investors would regard the stocks/shares to allow short term capital gains to be made purely on the basis of accurately predicting stock market sentiment instead of on the basis of investing in a company that would create wealth. A side effect was that some companies could become highly valued even when in any realistic view their assets were worthless, and thus because willing to offer large rewards to employees who could obtain significant increases in the quantity of worthless assets held, which led to something very close to economic collapse and has left us with an economic climate in which investment in innovation is restricted because it is very difficult to borrow money to develop new things.


There is sadly much truth to this but the engineering community also happens to have largely overlooked the piling of money into land and property in the UK since the late 1990s which has had a knock on effect of starving productive businesses of investment capital. If the rate of return (both rental and capital gains) on a BTL property is better than on some innovative electronics company then any man on the street can tell you where the investor will put his money. I have a few articles about this somewhere.

Another issue that needs to be looked at is the creative side of engineering. This is what drives the innovation more than the academic side does. Is engineering treated as too much of an academic subject in Britain?
 25 February 2012 01:11 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: TomThomson

The competitive edge in innovative design has largely gone simply because British society lost its respect for the people who provided that competitive edge, so people who worked at providing that edge had pretty low status and mostly also had pretty poor reward compared with people who did not provide any innovation; part of the problem was that the attitude to stocks and shares in teh London market changed: instead of investment being driven by the ability of the company being invested in to deliver a profit and decent dividends, it became largely based on a perception of how investors would regard the stocks/shares to allow short term capital gains to be made purely on the basis of accurately predicting stock market sentiment instead of on the basis of investing in a company that would create wealth. A side effect was that some companies could become highly valued even when in any realistic view their assets were worthless, and thus because willing to offer large rewards to employees who could obtain significant increases in the quantity of worthless assets held, which led to something very close to economic collapse and has left us with an economic climate in which investment in innovation is restricted because it is very difficult to borrow money to develop new things.


Well put.

Regards.
 26 February 2012 06:23 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Not sure you can blame it on lack of respect for engineers ( just look how Jobs, Gates and Zuckerberg are revered today, even by the anti-industry Arts establishment). Nor on mis-allocation of funds by city investors ( who live and die* by ensuring funds are allocated to the most profitable ventures - *at least they should die if the free market is allowed to operate without crony capitalist bailouts ).

No, when Steve Jobs was starting Apple in the 70's and 80's the UK had an 83% income tax rate and the dead hand of the state controlling all main industries, which were infested with out-of-control unions, cementing anti-competitive working practises in place and ensuring zero competition and zero innovation. The current trend in UK government policy is back towards those failed Big Government policies of the 70s. The Green Agenda being one of the main covers by which government power, bureaucracy and taxes are being extended and increased.

Big government & high tax = uncompetitive -> stagnation and decline

Small gov & low tax = competitive -> wealth creation
 26 February 2012 09:15 PM
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jencam

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Steve Jobs was more of a businessman and marketing expert than an engineer. Bill Gates got where he is by chance and sneaky anti-competitive marketing strategies in the 1980s with DOS. There is anecdotal evidence that Zuckerberg's Jewish pals in the media and finance are responsible for propelling Facebook to where it is today whilst other social networking sites have struggled badly because they did not receive anywhere near as much support.

The big government & high tax vs small government & low tax is a gross oversimplification. I recommend that you study the economic history of various industrialised countries before making conclusions based on the UK during the 1970s. We had big government, but it also happened to be a truly awful government. Japan also had big government, but its priorities and policies were far better.
 27 February 2012 01:25 AM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Originally posted by: jencam
Steve Jobs was more of a businessman and marketing expert than an engineer.
Not so. He was also a visionary designer - although granted he got other people like Wozniak to do the grunt work. I highly recommend reading his biography.

Bill Gates got where he is by chance and sneaky anti-competitive marketing strategies in the 1980s with DOS.
Sorry - but I don't think Bill Gates became the richest man in the world by chance. Right place at the right time - sure. But there were alot of other people in the right place too - and they didn't become multi-billionaires.

There is anecdotal evidence that Zuckerberg's Jewish pals in the media and finance are responsible for propelling Facebook to where it is today
. Rubbish. He produced a better product than everyone else (Seriously - did you *see* how bad MySpace was?)

Another important point about competitiveness: Difficulty hiring and firing people. The red tape in the UK is horrendous. Add that to the green tape and high taxes. Result = stagnation and decline.
 27 February 2012 02:21 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: Ipayyoursalary
Big government & high tax = uncompetitive -> stagnation and decline

Who pays high tax then?
How do our taxes and competitiveness compare to Germany?

Small gov & low tax = competitive -> wealth creation


Wealth creation is more complicated than small government and low tax. Many people still got wealthy when we had 'big government and high taxes' as you put it and even those who were not considered to be wealthy were wealthy in comparison with the same but 100 years earlier or otherwise the majority of the people around the world.

Regards.
 29 February 2012 08:24 AM
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jencam

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I regard Steve Jobs more as a man of ideas rather than an engineer. One must be careful to understand the difference between visionaries and innovators and technically minded engineers and not try to conflate them. Was Leonardo Da Vinci an engineer? Was William Shockley innovative?

Bill Gates succeeded financially because his company was selected to develop the operating system for a computer that later became the industry standard. Maybe he was in the right place at the right time but it was luck in the same way that Intel's fortune was the result of a decision by IBM to use their processors. Not many people know that Microsoft also produced Xenix (a unix that ran on PC hardware) and was heavily involved in MSX as a home computer standard back in the 80s, possibly as alternative lifelines if DOS wasn't successful. Microsoft is not a very innovative company as there is very little that they have sold that somebody else hasn't done years before them.

I probably know more than you do about Zuckerberg and his pals than Ipayyoursalary does which is why he came out with such a crass statement. Bear in mind that Zuckerberg has a whole army of software developers and marketing experts working for him so saying that he produced a better product is disingenuous when you look at all angles. It is possible to write volumes about this subject but that's for another topic or even an entire website.
 06 March 2012 03:51 AM
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taylorkm

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....yes and a large part of the reason that we've lost our competitive edge is because of this obsession with products. The IET, our Education system and government...even the public at large bemoan the dissapearance of the manufacturing sector instead of seeing that the next wave of innovation will be in services and platforms built around ecosystems with open systems of innovation. Quite frankly who cares about 3D printing and environmental regulation....the world and markets are looking for the next wave of innovation that makes life better for people. This will be service led.
 06 March 2012 09:03 AM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: taylorkm

....yes and a large part of the reason that we've lost our competitive edge is because of this obsession with products. The IET, our Education system and government...even the public at large bemoan the dissapearance of the manufacturing sector instead of seeing that the next wave of innovation will be in services and platforms built around ecosystems with open systems of innovation.
And guess what, they will be making some products.
Quite frankly who cares about 3D printing and environmental regulation....the world and markets are looking for the next wave of innovation that makes life better for people.
Well environmental legislation is law and law is the highest authority in the UK and therefore the government care about it, the courts care about it, the EA care about it,a wide variety of companies and people care about it.....rather obvious really. Probably the people who care about 3D printing are the ones involved in making it and using it!

Regards.
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