show image

New year, new day, new criticism of the government for supporting the tech industry

Well, that didn’t take long. Three days into 2017 (and a happy new year to all our readers of course) and the IT industry is complaining that the government is offering insufficient support compared to that available in other countries.

The occasion is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which will run until Sunday. Although there are British companies present (55 of them to be exact) there is no representation from inward investment organisation UKTI, and although minister Matt Hancock will attend for a day.

The BBC, at least, has one company complaining about the level of support and others praising (for example) France’s help for its own businesses. We’d have to ask, though, what objective is being served by complaining in public.

No such thing as bad publicity unless you’re the government

Put yourself in the position either of the show’s organiser or a start-up, as both have been quoted criticising the government. You’re either running or attending a show and you want some attention. You can either go with the standard “we’re at a show and here is some interesting technology” or you can find another angle.

And oh look, the government has withheld a few stops when it comes to pushing British technology at this show. There could be a lot of reasons for this, and a lack of motivation or understanding of the tech industry may well be among them.

There is also uncertainty in the face of Brexit (attendees might well ask about future trading arrangements when it comes to exhibited products and the only possible answer is “we don’t know until there have been negotiations”), government focus on other things (like Brexit of course) or a lack of resources. Many possibilities exist.

A reasonable bet, however, is that you’ll stand a better chance of garnering some decent publicity by making a point than by bland product announcements. By “bland” please understand “predictable” – Samsung making a stunning new phone or headset may be exciting in and of itself but a tech company making tech products is hardly a surprise.

So, slating the government instead offers you a chance to hit the headlines a bit. You probably mean every word you say, there’s no suggestion of spin – but it’s an easier hit than the product announcement you actually wanted to make.

The question of whether this sort of pronouncement brings you to the attention of potential development or retail partners rather than the political pundits is another thing.