THE BLOG
08/06/2015 06:45 BST | Updated 05/06/2016 06:59 BST

A New Golden Age for UK Technology Start Ups?

Is the UK heading towards a new golden age for science and technology? New initiatives and constant focus seem to support the concept, but to create a true golden age I think we still have a few big questions to address.

For a start, how can the tech sector marry today's feeling of optimism - and the private sector cash that is aligned with that growth - with the creation of both a societal and industry infrastructure that will enable technology-orientated people and businesses to flourish and grow?

Nurturing young talent

I strongly believe that the right place to start is by driving and engaging talented youths. The idea of getting more young people into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) isn't new, but it's something that we all need to keep the pedal pressed on. Once those skills are learned, it's time for the industry to open those positions that will help graduates apply their skills in a practical way.

This means continuing the push to make STEM more inclusive, as everyone has the opportunity to help shape - and reshape - our future.

Young women for instance; we know that only 7% of technology company chief executives are women. And only 1.5% of those women actually founded the tech companies they now run. When we fail to encourage youths to apply their enthusiasm and skills to STEM topics because they don't "fit a mould," we're wasting talent and putting unnecessary limits on our industry and on society. That's why I'm really excited to see initiatives like the upcoming six-week Stemettes Outbox Incubator programme starting to blossom.

Just imagine: up to 45 young women aged 11 to 22 will come together under one roof in London this summer to identify technology-based business concepts, work on them with experienced mentors and come up with proposals that can attract seed funding. They will get advice on how to pitch to their ideas to investors, the time to refine both their technical and business models and even, in some cases, go live with their ideas.

This is true tech innovation in action.

Injecting private sector enthusiasm into the debate

Clearly, there's a role for private enterprise in driving the next generation of technology superstars. Not long ago, Barclays announced it was launching a £100m fund for budding technology entrepreneurs. Tech start-ups across Britain will be able to borrow up to £5m, repayable over a three-year period. When you consider that access to funding is one of the major barriers for start-ups across all sectors, schemes like this have rocket-fuel potential for the tech industry.

Earlier this year the bank's Fast Growth Tech survey looked at more than 500 small and medium-sized technology businesses. These firms predicted 11% growth in the coming 12 months. That's a growth rate four times faster than the UK's GDP forecast for 2015! That means more jobs to the UK economy. It's clear that funding technology start-ups helps everyone. Let's hope that this triggers other institutions to offer similar programmes.

Positive reinforcement from government

It's worth remembering that in the run-up to the recent general election, all the main political parties offered proposals to help the technology industry grow wider roots. One of the areas the new government is now looking into is a greater focus on STEM subjects within schools, and an overhaul of the national curriculum to ensure that studying three separate sciences, plus maths, becomes a basic requirement of education across the UK. They're taking it one step further also - in an endeavor that would allow graduates to give back to their communities, top STEM graduates prepared to give some of their time to teach others would have their student loans paid while they remain in the classroom.

Another idea is to create Technical Academies in at least 12 cities throughout the country. This raises the potential to build small but powerful tech eco-systems, not only in London but across the entire UK.

No golden age - whether in the arts, business or science - has ever just magically sprung into existence. They've been created - and they flourish in environments where a combination of benign sponsorship and support from both business and government, inquisitiveness, passion, skill and the single-minded commitment of individuals come together to create a lasting legacy for all of us.

Working together, we all have the potential to make the technology golden age happen now.

Let's not waste it.