THE BLOG

Fighting for Our place as Europe's Silicon Valley

12/02/2014 13:15 GMT | Updated 13/04/2014 10:59 BST

It is often said that SMEs are the backbone of the economy. They're the unsung heroes, the growth drivers, who always keep our economic engine running.

Our start-up tech scene is no exception and has built up real momentum in recent years. Despite competition from Paris, Berlin, Tallinn and Barcelona, the UK has the potential to be Europe's leading hub for digital innovation. Or to put it another way, Europe's Silicon Valley.

But here's the problem: we don't quite believe it. In our classic British way, we're far too humble about our tech ambitions. Our digital innovators have a lot to shout about, both in London and in other parts of the country - Cambridge, Edinburgh and Manchester to name just a few.

The UK's digital economy also contributes more than 8% of GDP, greater than any other G20 nation. As we come out of recession, we need to wake up and realise that technological innovation really is the driving factor behind our future economic success.

At Virgin Media Business, we want to play a role in increasing Britain's digital competitive advantage. We're hunting out the next 'big thing', shining a light on it and giving it a platform to grow. Big businesses need to work hand-in-hand with tech innovators, helping them build relationships with potential collaborators, investors and customers. Without this support it's quite simple: the UK can't fight for its place on the global stage.

We launched our 'Three New Things' initiative earlier this year, with the aim of seeking out the best and brightest new tech ideas that have that game-changing potential. As well as financial support, the winning ideas will be given the chance to tap into the experience of mentors across the business - including time with Richard Branson himself.

Disruptive technology has the power to transform not only how we live and work, but can also address some of our most complex social challenges, from healthcare to education to the environment. Just look at the example of NHS services in North Cumbria, which introduced an out-of-hours service to make stroke care available to patients 24/7. For the 4000 people that suffer a stroke each year in the area, it means much higher chances of recovery and the chance to save lives.

In an entirely different sphere, the Bristol-based Bloodhound project is using the latest technology to design, build and test the first supersonic car, quite literally faster than the speed of sound. The aim is to smash the current land speed record next year, but also to inspire the next generation of schoolchildren with something simple - driving really, really fast - to get them excited about science and technology.

What starts as an idea on a scrap of paper can completely overhaul the way we live, work and think. So if you have a digital idea that's worth hearing about - whatever stage you're at - we'd love to hear from you. Anyone can enter via http://www.vmb3newthings.co.uk. The only entry standard is having an idea that can genuinely change the way we live or work for good.

Digital innovators have the power to lead the way in Britain's path to recovery in the UK, driving jobs and capital growth with huge returns. We're committed to making the most of that potential. Who knows? Along the way we could find the next Eric Schmidt or Mark Zuckerberg with the next big idea, just waiting to be discovered.