Matt Hancock, the digital minister of the UK, refused to accept that the UK government is failing to support tech startups to the same degree as governments in countries like France and the US.
His comments came after Gary Shapiro, organiser of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which took place in Las Vegas this week, described UK government support to tech firms as “an embarrassment.”
Speaking to the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, Hancock said Shapiro was wrong to make the claim.
When asked about the apparent lack of UK tech startups at CES, Hancock said: “I don’t think that’s the case. There’s British firms all over. In fact I’ve just been talking to some on the way up here and testing some fantastic new technologies.”
He added: “There’s the Future Worlds team from the University of Southampton. They have got a load of new technology. There’s a whole series of British companies who are here. Centrica have a big presence. You don’t think of them as a tech firm but increasingly technology is driving energy use in the home. And then lots and lots of small businesses as well.”
The minister was then asked why there were relatively few UK tech startups at the “Eureka Park” in CES, which is aimed specifically at startups.
Hancock replied: “This fair is much bigger than just one small park. If you go to where the autonomous vehicles work is happening, they have got a big cluster here. There’s a load of British companies involved there, like Five.AI. You know, British tech is represented here.”
Hancock went on to acknowledge that competition between nations is stiff when it comes to technology. “The fact that the French, for instance, are interested and getting up to pace in this area and the Americans have clearly always taken a lead, shows how much Britain has got to constantly work to stay ahead.”
French digital minister Axelle Lemaire told Business Insider recently that there is “increased interest” in France from British fintech startups after Brexit. She also outlined the various methods that the French government is using to support its tech companies.
Following Shapiro’s comments, Francis Turner, UK MD at adtech firm ADYOULIKE said: “If truth be told, the [UK] government has done little to nothing to support our business. My partner and I built up Content Amp, a UK native advertising technology firm, which was completely self-funded, into a successful company. Yet when looking for options to scale up and expand our business, both the UK government and also financial institutions were not interested in helping us. Due to this situation, we ended up merging with ADYOULIKE, a French native advertising company, in 2014 to fuel a combined global expansion.
“There’s much fanfare about the Silicon Roundabout, which is really a great thing but is sadly very concentrated on just one area and more should be done for technology companies outside of this area.”