More on Marconi

Some interesting posts in response to my note below on the Marconi story – with an overwhelmingly “protectionist” stance on the grounds that “hey, we’re talking critical national infrastructure here.”

Interesting indeed. Of course, the water system is part of CNI and we let Warren Buffet run a chunk of that. So is the electricity system and EDF run large parts of that.

But I do see the point – they say we need a capability in the UK and today we’re too dependent on the USA, e.g. GPS as one comment points out. When the US want to, they can just disable it and leave us all lost at the top of Snowdon, or wherever we happen to be at the time.

But if Marconi is the be all and end all of that capability we’re in trouble. As the FT says today:

– Marconi has cut its R&D budget by 40% in the latest dti survey compared with average cuts of 27% in the sector. Down from £300mm to £185mm.

– Marconi spend less per employee on R&D than Nokia, Cisco, Bookham, ARM etc

– Marconi was 29th in the Patent Office league for filings, against 13th last time

Besides, Marconi winning the BT business wouldn’t have meant that they didn’t get bought by a Chinese company anyway (how odd is it that after Rover we even think of entertaining bids from China?).

We’ve seen before what happened with, say, Qinetiq (that used to be DERA). That was arguably even more core to the nation than Marconi is now (Agreed that back in the days of Plessey, it was a different story).

So, if we’re going to retain national capability here, what do we do? Nationalise a few firms? Target some seed capital at new firms to do the work for us? Create [more] tax incentives for R&D?

Interested in all suggestions!

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