A recent Observer piece profiled ARM as ‘Britain’s most successful tech company you’ve never heard of’. While it is undoubtedly a very true statement I couldn’t help wondering “why?”
For those of us involved in the electronics sector it seems ridiculous to describe ARM as some sort of ‘secret’, but it simply does not have the mainstream recognition that other UK ‘tech’ success stories have, like Moshi Monsters, for instance. While that is almost certainly just the way ARM likes it, to me it is a big indicator of the fact that electronics is a massively undervalued industry in the UK.
I recently attended the NMI’s Industry Summit, which highlighted some pretty compelling statistics about just how big a part the electronics sector plays in the UK economy, courtesy of ESCO. The organisation’s latest survey of the UK electronics systems industry found that the sector employs over a million people, contributing over 5% to UK GDP.
These are incredibly impressive figures, and yet they are not widely known and the sector seems to wield surprisingly little influence at the highest levels. There are a number of industry bodies representing the sector, like the NMI, but I think it is true that as a group the electronics industry has been quite bad at collaborating to further shared goals. Unlike other sectors, the electronics industry seems to struggle to speak with one voice, especially when it comes to lobbying for more government support.
However, that collaboration is crucial to ensuring the continued success of the industry. The same NMI conference highlighted how a lack of interest in electronics is having major commercial impacts on the industry. In particular it highlighted that venture funding for electronics startups is significantly down over the past 5-10 years.
The UK has a proud history in electronics and continues to foster some of the world’s best innovation – as we well know, working with some of the country’s biggest and best electronics companies. It’s high time that the electronics industry got more vocal in championing its own work and shouting about its global success. It’s a challenge and a conversation that we are passionate about being involved in.
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