Tuesday, July 1, 2008

4: Survival of the Fittest

One positive thing that you can say about Politicians is that they are natures survivors. It is a very sophisticated skill to always end up on the winning team, and to appear to have scored the winning goal. As early politicians would attest, those who got it wrong frequently made a swift exit from the gene pool; and in so doing reinforced the strong genetic line for the professionals of today. So a note of caution, don't expect Politicians to lead anything, till you get to the finishing post.

So what is going on when Politicians of (all) Nations put their names and commit money to initiatives to encourage the development of Scientific excellence in their patch! Don't they know how risky and unpredictable Science, technology and Research are; let alone its successful exploitation? Europe has the Framework Program [3], with a commitment of around £3B/yr. The UK has the Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board with a combined budget of around £3B/yr [4,5]. Other countries do the same (some much more). These are large sums and thus political minefields.

... Their objective is to invest to stimulate the future economy of the geographic region they represent. They want to see the right skills/technology/science in place in 5+ years time, so that when a new 'killer application' emerges, 'their' geographic region is well placed to capitalise (make money) out of it. In a Politician's world: money equals trade; trades (GDP) are taxed; and tax is where Governments raise its Budget, to spends 'supporting' its people and demonstrating its power (FYI, the UK Budget is about £500B/yr). Now we see it ... Science may be a long-shot, but it has a track record [2] for big-time contribution to the economy!

Business is where the money is 'made' (Entering the economy largely through wages), but its priority is making money (big-time) for its investors. Governments (Believe it or not) are interested in the wellbeing of the geographic region that many of us will call Home ... Business influences your pay-packet, Government influences your lifestyle.

So it is a good thing if Government spends a little of 'our' money to encourage the establishment of local Business enterprises, whilst avoiding 'feeding the money machine'. Indeed the World Trade Association (WTO), also has something to say about this. It insist (and the Members must enshrine the rules into National Law), that such investment moneys are spent pre-competitively ... that is, not for subsidising Products, only for developing Capabilities.

So we should should all take a personal interested in 'our' Businesses taking full regional advantage of the money that Governments offer. Such money can legitimately sway the balance such that when your Business undertakes to establish a Capability (aka Research) [1], that it is 'more inclined' to do parts of it in (for example) the UK, rather than elsewhere; And thereby establish a useful skill foot-hold which can be subsequently developed for (UK) economic benefit.

... It is in Businesses Interest to take the money to fund work it needs to do anyway.

... It is in our Personal Interest to take the money to encourage the (UK) economy to prosper.

Of course it is not just about forming an orderly queue to collect the money; it wouldn't be proper Government if there wasn't procedures and paperwork to navigate. Also many Businesses do not understand what Capabilities they need to have, let alone think far enough ahead to plan for their establishment. And of course any direction guidance suggested by Politicians should be treated with a great deal of suspicion. So these are the rocks on which these programs and their reputations flounder.

... But Businesses that are in possession of regionally motivated people, and have good visibility of their future needs, will find this support relatively easy to obtain and highly valuable!

So it seems those inveterate survivors may have got it right again! They know that if the money on offer is not taken or used properly then they can always blame Business's incompetence, and site their frustrated efforts on behalf of the country. And if just one of their investments comes up big-time, they can be there at the victory celebration with personal credit for the winning goal.

... You really have got to admire professionalism when you see it!


1: I think, therefore I jump to conclusions
2: In search of the Philosopers Stone
3: Seventh Research Framework Program (FP7)
4: Technology Strategy Board
5: Research Councils