Our work - a progress report
Since our inaugural meeting in September 2009, attended by over 70 interested parties, we have been laying the foundations of the Alliance.
As with any new, national, independent organisation, a disproportionate amount of effort has yielded, what may appear to some, little tangible results. We hope this progress report may correct any such impression.
Not surprisingly, in talking to others, we have found much in common across the nation in the experiences of high-tech SMEs. There is general concern about the disconnect of Government rhetoric to the realities of dealing with Government bodies resulting in frustration, false promises and sub-glacial reaction times.
Our approaches to government, as the voice of the SMEs was, of course, hampered by the general election and ensuing policy shift. What follows is a brief résumé of actions to date:
1. Professor Stephen Hawking has kindly agreed to be our patron. Many of our problems will require a global prospective, which he is uniquely well placed to champion.
2. We have established a sound working relationship with colleagues across the regions. Considerable duplication of effort had previously gone into regional representations to various Government bodies, all achieving the same result - in practice, no real changes to assist SMEs involved in innovation. The national voice of SMEIA has however already produced a positive reaction from some parts of Government. Members feedback remains crucial to monitor promised changes against delivery e.g. accessible finance for innovative SMEs.
3. We have established an Economic Advisory Panel. We have been fortunate to enlist the support of sympathetic and influential, academic, economic and political leaders. Most recently Will Hutton (The Work Foundation) has joined the list. Others are expected to join the panel soon.
4. We have engaged the services of an SME innovative website designer who has revamped our initial website and who is making an attractive offer to members, www.smeia.org.
Membership: high tech SMEs are naturally adverse to pay hard earned cash for anything. However, we have now established membership benefits that offer many more than the cost of joining. We also have an associate membership category for businesses who work with SME innovators.
We do have to pay for certain costs and a fee is required in order for us to be self-funded. We believe our membership will grow significantly, as we continue to demonstrate that we truly represent the national interests of SMEs involved with innovation.
Work in progress
1. A meeting and teleconference was held with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) at their HQ. BIS demonstrated the suitability of teleconferencing for future use by SMEIA across the regions. A number of issues were discussed with agreement reached on holding further meetings with SMEIA.
2. SMEIA was invited and recently attended two meetings with the Department of Energy and Climate Change along with other invited representatives from industry and Government. The main outcome of these sessions was that it was agreed that the main source of innovation was SMEs, as well as partnership arrangements with large corporates. It was also accepted that policy has to change in order to allow SMEs to move ahead and tackle the issues without the barriers that exist.
3. SMEIA sent an immediate response to the treatment of patent royalty taxation, theoretically intended to assist high tech SMEs, but which, in fact, would have had the opposite effect for a few years. HM Treasury responded positively and hopefully is in the process of making policy that matches with other Government announcements e.g. fast track patent schemes.
1. Continued pressure has been brought to bear on the various IP authorities. This is a long term and seemingly intractable problem but there simply is no plan B. We, and they, have to agree a global solution to protect our ideas and allow SMEs to actually benefit.
2. Considerable effort is being put in to produce SME innovation reports which we intend to forward to the principle ministers such as Vince Cable and George Osborne so that they have relevant input about banking, IPR, grants, Technology Strategy Board etc.
Affiliations: meetings have been held with Royal Institution and Royal Academy of Engineering. Consideration has been given to joint events, members' use of central London facilities at preferential rates and possible co-operation on future projects.
1. The new SMEIA website is self-administered which allows us to keep the site current and reduce costs. Members can use the web-site offer to achieve similar results for their businesses.
2. A concerted press/publicity campaign will commence in September 2010.
AGM: It is proposed to hold an AGM in the autumn at a London venue.
Articles of Association:
We recognise the necessity of a proper constitutional framework. It is intended to have this finalised for the proposed AGM.
1. Negotiations with an airline are underway with a view to providing a limited number of free or discount flights to SMEIA members.
2. Will Hutton kindly, not only agreed to join the Economic Advisory Panel, but also offered to provide our members with a number of signed copies of his new book entitled ‘Them and Us’ due to be published in the autumn.
We hope we have given you some idea of SMEIA activities. If anyone has the time or talents to further our efforts do contact us.
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