UK fails to impress in technology innovation league

The UK ranks only 11th in KPMG’s global survey asking where the top technological innovations will come from in the next four years

The UK has failed to make it into the top 10 in KPMG’s latest list of technology innovation hotspots.

The league table was formed from the results of a global survey of 668 technology executives conducted by the consultancy firm. It ranked the UK at number 11, with just 1% of respondents citing the region as likely to provide “disruptive technology breakthroughs” in the next two to four years.

Tudor Aw, head of technology for KPMG in Europe, was not shocked by the results, claiming the UK struggled to move its creativity from ideas to business proposals.

“It’s not surprising that people think so poorly of the UK in terms of tech innovation,” he said. “There are very few strongly branded tech companies in this country, [despite] a lot of today’s most popular technologies [having] British visionaries [behind them] – think Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web, Sir Jonathan Ive, lead designer behind many of Apple’s products, and Alan Turing, widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.

“No one would argue with the fact that the UK is a creative hub, which is reflected in our fashion and music, but, with a few notable exceptions, what we have been poor at in the tech sector is taking that creativity to a commercial model.”

Equally unsurprising was the countries topping the list. China, with the backing of 30% of respondents, was named the number one innovation hotspot, and the US was just behind with 29%, showing the fight is still on for technology domination between the two super powers.

France was the only European country to break the top 10, behind India, Japan, Korea, Canada, Israel, Brazil and Russia. Norway and Sweden were in 12th and 13th place respectively.

Nearly half of the executives surveyed (43%) expected a shift in power from Silicon Valley, which is still currently seen as the centre of technological innovation by the respondents, to another country. A significant 45% thought China would be the next hub, followed by India at 21%, and both Japan and Korea with 9%. 

“More and more technology executives believe that when it comes to tech innovation, the centre of gravity is moving east,” added Aw. “Until now China has been better known for its disruptive cost model rather than its disruptive technologies, but things are beginning to change.

“China today has a highly competitive education system, which produces a vast pool of talent. It has fostered an environment which encourages the development of disruptive technologies and we simply can’t ignore any more what’s coming around the corner.”

Yet, even with this shift, it was the US companies that were expected to come up with the most disruptive technologies. Apple topped the chart, with 39% looking to it for the next big thing. Baidu was named as a company driving innovation by 24% of executives, but it shared second place with US rivals Google, Yahoo and Comcast.

“Most tech executives would agree on where the big opportunities are – the challenge will be executing on these opportunities,” concluded Aw. “The winners will be those that get the consumer experience right and manage to dispel widespread concerns among consumers about privacy and data security.”


Read more on IT innovation, research and development