Our nation of innovation

We’re a nation of innovation; entrepreneurs, of can-do attitudes. RON WAIN, the managing director of Deep South Media, which works for 50 companies and organisations across many sectors, from engineering to professional services, praises your animal spirits.


There are millions of you – out of sight of the armchair miserabilists – who design, build, drive and service the innovation engine which makes Britain great.

For too long now, you, the bright sparks, have been consigned to the cold shadows by vocal critics hard-wired to believe that we are collectively doomed to economic failure, especially since the Brexit vote.

But you have earned your spurs – it is time to step out confidently into the warm sunshine.

Out there, in the business world I love being part of, brilliant things are happening in Great Britain and they are largely attributed to what I call the Harry Phelan factor.

Harry is a 22-year-old barber who recently won the first-ever Young Start-up Talent Solent 2016 competition, which was sponsored by various local businesses in Hampshire, with £50,000 worth of business support and services to the winner.

The lad, pictured here holding the trophy with jubilant family and friends, is the epitome of the British entrepreneur, full of verve, ideas, humility, a willingness to learn, to earn good money not just for himself but for the apprentices he wants to develop into being the best.

Harry – I use the name generically to include men and women – is part of a can-do generation of youngsters where business comes naturally to them, whether that’s starting up a haircutting service in the spare room at home, filming a brilliantly-produced spoof of a John Lewis Christmas advert or designing lifesaving health testing kits for impoverished countries.

For them, technology is second nature; we are in the heady age of augmented reality, of immersive experiences, of on-demand satisfaction, with an astonishing creativity that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago.

The pace of change is driven by the Harrys of Great Britain, who rightly give short shrift to the naysayers unfamiliar or uncomfortable with some of the economic facts which undermine their weak, corrosive arguments.

For example, we are in the top three places in the world for innovation. Yes, in the top three, above America, Japan and Germany. Only Finland and Sweden are ahead of us.

But you won’t hear those naysayers repeating that aloud because, sadly, it doesn’t fit into their narrative. They don’t understand, or want to understand, how research and development and out-there concepts can rapidly become transformed into the inventions, products and services which become an integral part of our everyday lives.

A nation of entrepreneurs? Come on, I hear the seething critics question, innovation is one thing, but where is the proof of a Britain populated by the job-creating Harrys?

Evidence is available, courtesy of official figures. There are a record 5.5 million businesses in the UK, of which one million are small ones.

These smaller businesses, typically employing between one and 10 people and representing the vast majority of firms, are led by unsung heroes who work in our industrial estates, offices, workshops, factories, laboratories and universities.

If those reasons are not enough, try this – we are, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Index, one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business.

The latest official figures also show a rise in business investment and household spending, despite the uncertainty which the out-vote inevitably brought with it.

Trade, too, is doing okay. Exports are up by 0.7%, due to a cheaper pound, and imports fell by 1.5%.

Yes, we are likely to see a slowdown in national output – GDP – when we divorce the EU, but when did our maritime nation ever have it easy in history?

In my line of business, my colleagues and I are fortunate to work for firms involved in engineering, manufacturing, computer technology, construction, development, public transport, energy, professional services and such like. You get a feel for what is happening out there. They are driven by the animal spirits which allow their businesses to flourish.

I am bowled over by the sheer brilliance of their ideas, of their unwavering belief in what they are doing, whether that’s augmented reality robotic gaming or cutting-edge software which keeps a safe eye on thousands of vessels plying their global trade. There are so many examples.

Yes, there are millions of you, the Harrys, doing brilliant things, being entrepreneurs, launching and running ventures, taking risks, learning resilience and, just as importantly, steering away from the lure lights of the shipwreckers who know nothing of what it is like to sail the unforgiving seas which surround us.