I think it was Cisco’s John Chambers that once said that big companies can’t innovate, as he refocussed a large part of their R&D budget to nurturing and developing partnerships with small companies that could. Today we are seeing a similar trend in the pharmaceutical industry, where large internal research labs are being replaced by smaller external research companies.

And it is smaller, more nimble companies that are developing innovative business approaches, technologies, and service delivery models in broadband; not just in the UK but across Europe. Heavy Reading predicted that around 60% of European fibre connections would be delivered by non-incumbents, with the largest sector being local municipal networks led by smart, small-scale innovators.

While the pattern in the UK is a little different, we too are seeing innovation growing just as it has across the continent, but these companies need space and support to develop in order that their impact can be felt, their promise can be assessed, and for the main industry players to construct partnerships or acquire the best of them. So with this in mind, the Government’s policies for supporting SMEs in public procurement exercises and the wider localism agenda are both smart and well timed if the UK is to genuinely deliver “Europe’s best superfast broadband market by 2015”.

Few sensible people would argue with the policy – but there appears to be growing concern over the implementation.

The announcement of BDUK’s intention to procure a national framework seems to have simultaneously divided the industry and undermined the Government’s policy objective. Having spoken to industry players that say they’ve seen drafts of the procurement plan, they tell me that it will require revenues of at least £40m generated in at least the last two consecutive years, excluding not just SME’s but many of the established players in the industry as well.

Nobody doubts that delivering such an ambitious plan will be very hard, but side-lining the most nimble, innovative players won’t make it any easier.

Let’s hope the rumours and grumblings are ill-founded!

  1. chris conder says:

    I don’t think the grumblings are ill-founded. It has become very obvious that there isn’t a hope of innovation in the UK as all the councils going through the procurement process simply end up handing the money over to the incumbent to patch up its legacy copper infrastructure. They are killing the golden goose that could have made us into a digital britain. Strikes me its the blind leading the blind, none can see the light and vital vision has served its purpose, to blindfold the decision makers.
    http://tinyurl.com/664bhwl (the pdf BT removed from their site)

    • Adrian Wooster says:

      What I meant was that I hope that the grumblings and rumours about the framework are ill-founded – at the moment they are just rumours but it doesn’t sound very promising.

      When even the Conservative Technology Forum, the group that feed into Conservative policy thinking in this space, isn’t happy about the process – http://bit.ly/lPKaFu – then you’d like to think something will change.

  2. Lindsey Annison says:

    Additional rumour to add to the mill is that you can opt out of the Framework if you are intending to do PSN. This would mean Cumbria, for instance, could drop out, but I doubt there are enough hours in a year to help CCC understand the ramifications and importance of the need for this ‘opt out’ to deliver their statutory duty of well-being for the constituents.

    • Adrian Wooster says:

      As a country, we keep going up and down on the same roller-coaster, never seeming to learn from very much and being left farther and farther behind while convincing ourselves its not true or that somehow we know better than all those countries that have years more experience and made much more progress. This definitely feels like one of those moments when we’re heading down hill at a rate of knots.

      It was Alan Turing’s 99th birthday yesterday. Even as we were pioneering the birth of modern computing we managed to fluff it up by allowing public bodies to dictate who could do what and how. It didn’t help the UK then and it isn’t now.

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