IT will make U.K. the innovation nation, says Prime Minister Brown

New technology ideas will make Britain “the innovation nation” of the future, according to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Speaking at NESTA’s Innovation Edge Conference in London, the prime minister told an audience of IT developers, scientists, entrepreneurs and academics: “What you are doing is absolutely critical for the economy.”

“I want to break down every barrier to innovation, whether it is our policy or our attitudes to regulation,” he said.

Brown pledged that if any ideas from the conference suggested the government needed to do things differently, “then we will.”

But Sir John Chisholm, chairman at defence technology firm Qinetiq, quickly followed Gordon Brown’s speech by saying the U.K. still lacked a climate that encourages technology innovation, unlike the U.S.

“The U.S. is not short of finding early adopters of innovation,” he said. In the U.K., he argued, there was less willingness in the public sector to take risks with new ideas, because “ministers have to be protected”.

“We need more competition and rewards for successful research [at universities],” added Lord Sainsbury, former minister for science and innovation. He said, however, that the government was listening more to those researchers as well as industry experts, improving its attitudes to innovation.

David Willetts MP, shadow secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills, said the government promoted innovation much more than it had in the past. “We mustn’t be too pessimistic. The key is we need to recognize you are trying to buy a service, not a function, and to make sure the ideas will work for that service.”

Yesterday afternoon, the Home Office gave the gave the go-ahead to a specialist police e-crime unit which will comprise of online experts, and is expected to work with industry partners to find innovative ways of tracking and fighting crime on the Web.

It is also examining ways to track communications data, including establishing a central database of all e-mails and phone calls made in the U.K. But this has already attracted a high level of concern in the IT industry over security and privacy.

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