Various bits of the UK government have come in for a bit of a bashing recently, and rightly so, but there are other bits that do fire on all cylinders and are actually doing a great job, UK Trade & Investment and the Technology Strategy Board for example.
I spent a chunk of yesterday at the TSB’s Collaboration Nation event (you can follow today’s action live here) which was not only well organised but quite inspiring. The event centred around the winners of the TSBs last funding competition, which gave grants of up to £25,000 for feasibility studies, and the results have been quite spectacular.
I have always argued that what small technology businesses need is small amounts of funding without too many strings attached, rather than huge but rigid projects, and by providing this, the TSB seems to have produced quite a crop of good ideas. By giving small grants, many SME’s are inspired to do that bit of development or research that they have been meaning to do for years, but never had the time or the resources to do. While large programs such as FP7 tend to take on a life of their own and can distract companies from their core business, these little grants provide a useful boost to support core activities.
So while other parts of the government blunder around trying to come up with grand visions and overarching innovation strategies, the TSB has given back the power to the people who know most about innovation – small businesses!