Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which represents more than 2,400 tech companies and owns and produces the CES tech show has accused the UK Government of failing its start-ups, calling its support for UK firms looking to kickstart their future at CES as an embarrassment”.
As reported by several major media outlets including the BBC, Gary compared the UK’s activity unfavourably with other European powers, placing France, the Netherlands and Israel well ahead in terms of a proactive approach to supporting companies exhibiting at the show.
Whilst the UK’s Department for International Trade said it was providing ‘targeted support,’ there are nearly five times as many French companies exhibiting at the event as British ones.
Gary specifically cited effective support from the Paris government which had seen an annual increase in numbers over the past few to help entrepreneurs and start-ups.
As reported by the BBC, Gary explained: “Now we’re starting to see other countries take notice. We’ve seen that the Netherlands and others going in there big time [this year]. Britain’s been a little slow to the game honestly. We have a minister from Britain coming, but there’s not a lot of activity that we’ve seen at CES. I think it’s a source of embarrassment.
“When I was in London recently, I raised it with one of the ministers, and they said: ‘Yeah, it’s amazing. I can get approval to go to [Texas festival] South by Southwest, but because it’s Las Vegas, for some reason it’s frowned upon.’ And that’s a pretty short-sighted attitude.”
Whilst there is an element of ‘he would say that wouldn’t he’ here, naturally CES wants its show to be number one; the fact is that for launches into the AV and increasingly tech-start up sectors, it is undeniably one of the biggest opportunities of the year, so it does beg the question as to why the UK government seems a little CES ‘shy’.
CES charges a discounted rate for space in its Eureka Park start-up zone, with 2017’s event seeing French, Ukrainian, Czech, Saudi Arabian, Dutch, Israeli, New Zealand and US stands organised by government-backed agencies to promote exhibitors.
The BBC reported that a spokeswoman for the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) said it thought it was more effective for UK attendees to base themselves elsewhere in product-themed areas. True possibly, but it would be a positive move for UK start-ups, perhaps with less cash than others, to at least have the option.
The spokeswoman added that Matt Hancock, minister for digital and culture, would meet British exhibitors when he attended the show for half a day before travelling on to meet music industry leaders in California. Again, for such a big show, half a day seems a little light – is the Government really seeing the opportunity here?
Exhibitors have also pointed to other governments putting on special networking events for their exhibitors as well as helping with marketing, whilst again UK exhibitors are left hanging.
Gary stressed the issue as he saw it was not just to do with money: “Government support is just not funding, I want to make that very clear. It’s political leadership. It’s showing up. It’s a matter of [attracting] attention. We’re having the prince of the Netherlands show up, for example. I don’t know why the UK is not responding, because there is a tremendous amount of innovation there. I think there’s a great opportunity for the UK, which is untapped.”
At CE Pro Eu, we must say we are inclined to agree, the UK Government has been pretty vocal about wanting to support business, including tech. Here is a perfect opportunity to do so, so this could definitely be done better.