13 November, 2014 - 08:13 By Tony Quested

Culling the last of the tech dinosaurs

It’s hard to think of a thrusting Science & Technology hotspot like Cambridge UK being regarded in some quarters as some kind of Jurassic Park.

But facts need to be faced. A lot of businesses – not just in Cambridge but in other tech hotspots globally – and the people who run them are being labelled dinosaurs. 

Nothing to do with grey hairs or ageism but a description used by tech market watchers and business authors in recent weeks to define entities and entrepreneurs employing outmoded models and methods.

Lean, fast and nimble get the keys to the kingdom in the modern business world. Innovation thrives; inertia dives.

Eighty per cent of Apple’s current turnover comes from products launched in the last two years. OK, the technology has been hatching or a lot longer than that, but these are new, potentially gamechanging products nevertheless and more are already bubbling in the pipeline. Ditto at ARM, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon, Huawei and many more.

Science & technology innovation is only one element of the formula for NextGen success. Identifying new business models is another must. Authors of a recent book on the need for companies to continually innovate claim that good people relations will help you get rid of your sales team and great peer2peer networks will negate the need for a service department. 

An over-simplification perhaps but a fair assumption that truly innovative businesses can stay lean and lithe by working smarter and leveraging the power of truly cutting edge science & technology.

Like half of an old, disillusioned married couple, global tech giants are trying to find some sex and sizzle by acquiring a younger, livelier partner to beef up the action.

HP tried it by acquiring Autonomy but lacked the equipment to successfully consummate the relationship. It wouldn’t be unfair to observe that HP turned convention on its head by creating a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.

Huawei will have better fortunes after the ICT giant snapped up Cambridge IoT player Neul. And Qualcomm will add handsomely to its portfolio and bottom line if the proposed $2.5 billion acquisition of Cambridge wireless company CSR is sanctioned by shareholders before the end of the year.

The never-ending need for pizzazz is why AstraZeneca is snuggling up to young Cambridge biotech innovators. And it is why Google honed its radar so it could identify and swiftly snap up Cambridge tech tyros Phonetic Arts and DeepMind Technologies. I’m told Google continues to sweep the Cambridge cluster – not least the university – for similar opportunities.

Apple’s impending move into Cambridge is reportedly being facilitated by the acquisition of a young innovative company in the city. Amazon is still scaling up on the back of its late-2012 acquisition of Evi.

The move towards Machine2Machine Connectivity under the Internet of Things initiative is undoubtedly driving much of the tech cluster acquisitional activity globally.

That is evidenced by the Qualcomm and Huawei acquisitions of Cambridge tech stars  – but wearable technology advances also hold an attraction. How to find an edge in this new and exciting market is top of the agenda in so many boardrooms in the fast lanes of the Silicon Highway.

3D Printing is another Cambridge and UK strongsuit. The fridge that prints brocolli, machines that print anything from human tissue to houses in space, will literally take us onto a different planet in terms of technological advances.

Faster, cheaper drug and technology delivery are the name of the FutureTech game. With Microsoft, Apple, ARM, Huawei, Amazon, AstraZeneca, Samsung, Sony, Siemens, Spotify and others scaling up in the cluster and the university continuing to hone its cutting edge in every conceivable area of research – from materials to medtech – the light blue sky’s the limit for Cambridge. 

The increasing degree of international collaboration involved in this process should help condemn the last, lingering business dinosaurs to metaphorical museum displays and crackly microfiche memorabilia.

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