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Britain leads global innovation, but we shouldn’t forget the basics

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The computer, the television, the World Wide Web – Britain has serious pedigree when it comes to innovation, technology and new inventions, and to this day we are at the forefront of advanced manufacturing. We are today home to world-leading companies in areas like interactive technology, aerospace engineering and digital devices. Although the success we have had in these areas is in a large part down to famous British inventiveness – Caractacus Potts springs to mind – it takes more than just blind invention to succeed in an increasingly competitive industry. Aspiring high-tech manufacturers in the UK need to bear in mind the following to remain at the front of the pack.

Innovate where innovation is needed

Manufacturers of advanced technology must ensure that they focus their research and development on areas where there is a demand for technological solutions – and to further their competitive edge, tech brands must innovate, using solutions capable of adapting to consumers’ changing needs. To use our experience as an example – touch screen solutions are increasingly becoming a prominent aspect of everyday life, and there is a growing need to introduce greater interactivity into public environments such as retail and transport.

In order to meet this growing need, we developed touchfoil™, a special layer which can be applied to any surface and create a fully functional touch screen. The special foil can be built into glass partitions, doors, furniture, external windows, and street signage. It is constructed of two clear, micron-thin laminated plastic sheets with an embedded mega-thin grid of sensing wires that lead to an electronic controller. When the glass is touched, the location is identified through the glass on the touchfoil’s wire grid and communicated via the controller to the computer to carry out the action on the screen. This technology can create through-window interactive displays within retail environments – providing the interactivity that consumers and businesses are increasingly demanding.

Ensuring that your efforts are focussed on developing technology which meets changing consumer and business needs is crucial to creating a sustainable business structure.

Ensure infrastructure is in place

While developing the right product is important, it does not guarantee the success of a technology business on its own – it is just as important to establish an effective distribution infrastructure. This does not necessarily mean introducing a costly in-house distribution network. Though each business is unique, high technology manufacturers which need to ship specialised products, or those which expect fluctuations in demand, may benefit from employing the services of an experienced logistics provider. For instance, we regularly need to ship delicate products to over 85 countries worldwide and FedEx Express offers us a bespoke service that enables it to ship multiple touchfoils, regardless of the size, across the globe.

Don’t be dissuaded by the financial risks – support is available

Tech businesses must also consider the support on offer in order to ensure their success. Public sector support is available which mitigates the tech manufacturing industry’s main barriers to entry; high cost and high risk – in the shape of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult. The Government-backed organisation is based in seven centres across the country and works with companies of all sizes to bridge the gap between innovation and commercialisation. In 2014 to 2015 they supported over 1,500 businesses – one in four of which were SME’s – and achieved 15 net economic benefits for every £1 of government funding received, demonstrating that high-tech manufacturing holds huge potential for individual manufacturing businesses as well as the wider economy.

High-tech manufacturing is incredibly exciting, and with its passion and talent for innovation Britain is leading this sector that holds vast potential. Yet though our heads should remain firmly in the clouds when it comes to creating pioneering technology, our feet must remain firmly on the ground when it comes to the less glamourous basics of establishing a successful business.


Mike Cole

Mike Cole

Mike Cole is a director at visualplanet.

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