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Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

3rd November 2015

Written evidence from Bikal Distribution GKB

Executive summary

  • - The digital revolution and the change in the economy of where the opportunities are.
  • - UK Academic research institutions and their ability to aid productivity through innovation.
  • - Manufacturing in volume vs high quality and partnering with emerging economies who are driving manufacturing, by way of reducing dependency in China.
  • - Requirement for the right skills pool through education and re-training.
  • - The funding requirement for short, medium and long term planning.
  • - Ageing population and cuts in welfare, leading to longer working lives.
  • - Collaboration between industries and the move away from single product companies.

The organization

A UK company that provides software and devices to capture video, audio and big data. These can then create efficient processes, increase public safety and provide preventative healthcare. This is done by liaising with end users and using HPC and algorithms to process the data. We work through our network of global offices and partners to create localized solutions for local communities. We innovate product through the collaboration with universities.

Myself

I am the director of the company and have been in business for 11 years. My main skill set is in sales and marketing and being from London I have kept the company HQ here. I am 40 years old and plan to stay in business in some form or another as the opportunities that I have worked on seem to be bearing fruit. There is a knowledge base that has taken me time to create and the contacts that have come with that are now a lot more consistent.

Reason for submitting evidence

I have seen the business landscape change and at the same time learnt a lot about how to do business, as all business owners do. The digital revolution is a key factor in the change as it effects the product we sell (or create) and the way that we work. I have reduced my overhead by using many online cloud softwares and having efficient PCs to work on. I make changes in the way that I work every 3-6 months to maintain the efficiencies or search out new ways and tools that will make work more productive.

This has given me time to work on our product offering which creates a better business, through increased margins and higher demand product. Most of these include cloud based services and capitalization of data, hardware product is being commoditized because of volume manufacturers in China. A lot of these technology innovations have come from tech transfer from universities and the main reason for submitting the evidence is around the problem there has been in getting this technology onto the market. The USA has seen many tech based companies come from universities via tech transfer and from well-known drop outs from universities. The USA manages to take an idea and then create a company very quickly. USA Students, in the better universities, have ingrained in them to create their own job rather than look for one and so they drop out when the idea arises.

Universities in the UK have business development offices and teams but there is still a huge problem in getting a product or business transferred into a company, creating a new entity or licensing to an existing corporate. There have been instances of USA companies getting patents registered which are inventions from the UK. I have personally been speaking to professors and business development teams in the UK Universities on an idea, writing proposals and then for them to turn around and say we cannot manage this because of work load. Then I have gone abroad to get the technology and currently I am working with a Japanese University on the same idea.

The digital revolution has changed the landscape and patents no longer have the same power that they once had. A discussion with a well-known listed tech transfer company stated that they only worked with tech transfer opportunities where the university had patents in place. They focus mainly on chemical and physics based technologies. The digital tech was ignored by them and so I formed an R&D company which looks into research of machine vision, audio and big data technologies. To increase our productivity we do not wait for a patent to be granted as the risk is for the same solution to be created but in another way. This is unique to the digital revolution and we can give examples of taxi mobile apps such as Haile and Uber. Uber through the right backing have become global. Ideas are the new currency and the patent application reduces productivity through the perceived notion that patents are needed in the modern economy. However, the innovation from the UK is hampered by the lack of understanding with in universities, lack of skills & re-training (we should not have to wait for millennials to graduate or come into the workforce) and the short term venture funding.

Recommendations for action by the Government or others for the committee to consider

Factual

1. The global economy is changing whereby if we rely on manufacturing to compete productivity we do not have the manufacturing base nor the skill level to do this. The ability to produce on volume and quickly enough requires scale. We can compete on luxury goods but not on mass volume manufacturing.

2. We have identified, through our own need to develop new product, the assets within universities. Research and development can produce a multitude of products and services (some through increasing efficiency) that will increase our productivity even if manufacturing is outsourced.

3. I have examples of university technology that is advertising for licensing of that tech but enquiry it is always 6 – 8 weeks more before the product is ready. The inventor needs to do a little more research.

4. The current foreign direct investment is based on asset purchases such as property established companies, brand name. This shows that the UK can attract investment but most of it seems to be low risk and long term based.

5. I have been on UKTI trade missions and they have been very good. They take a little time understand how to use them but once you grasp the handle of it they are good.

Recommendations

1. We need to broaden into the areas that we are good at, which relies on a higher skill set and a then services to support that skill set.

2. Business and entrepreneurship degrees, not necessarily mean that they will want be more entrepreneurs but they will understand how entrepreneurs work. There is a change in business structures which is acknowledged by things like the BSI standards. There is a BSI standard (BSI: 11000) for collaboration.

3. There have to be more dispersed Innovation and incubation centres and parks. Create clusters for innovation within small cities and towns. At the moment it seems as if things are London centric. (We are working with Glasgow University, Kyoto University and a doctor based in Austin, Texas). Locating within London and London competing for startups is not going to increase the productivity, due to the cost of rent and travel.

4. Universities need to be on a performance related or some other process whereby the technology is accessible for small firms. We have even offered to pay for the tech as well as continuing the research so that the university can produce papers. Compulsory purchase orders should be created for technology transfer as there are other scientists that can continue the research if the inventors are not able to create a commercial product and or company. By registering each tech with a central committee the university should be given a time span to respond and act or the small firm should get access to that technology, this committee can then make the company accountable for working and paying for the technology.

5. Allow or attract more engineers and youth to the economy. Germany are paying for Chinese grads to stay in the country, as they recognize they have a shortage. We need to have an allocation of permanent stay working visas (which include start up/ entrepreneur (without the £200k investment stipulation) as international students (mainly Indian and Chinese) are creating the right competition and have the drive to disrupt the established thinking. This is evident with the USA economy and tech we have seen come from Silicon Valley.

6. Partnership with manufacturing countries (Asia and Latin America) should be encouraged. We need to license more of the technology to international manufacturing companies. This requires for the UK to move quickly. We can be a design house and inventor of smart technologies and selling expert services.

7. Aid UK trade with more involvement with the UKTI, more demand from international buyers needs to be supported as most of the companies are small (the UK punches above its weight) and so we need to support the costs of marketing.

Mr. Raj Sandhu
August 2015

Online version Business Innovation and skills committee

Other submissions Business Innovation and skills

For further information and advice please contact us on uk@bikal.co.uk or +44 (0)20 7193 5708