There was much contention during the EU referendum campaign as to which economic model Britain should follow, in the event of a Leave vote. Yet perhaps Britain should look further east than Norway. Specifically, in the direction of South Korea, which has a booming economy driven by “soft power”: a highly sophisticated IT and technology presence. For example, the country dominates and makes full use of the TV and VR industries; it is only South Korea that can boast a tech company which truly challenges Apple’s mobile supremacy. With similar levels of urbanisation, population and natural resources to Britain, South Korea’s tech-driven economy has realised free trade agreements with the USA, China, Canada, Australia and the European Union, without being part of any major trading bloc itself. That is how effectively the right cutting-edge technology can support business. Can British technology drive our commercial sector on a similar trajectory, post-Brexit?
Exactly two months after the UK’s vote to leave the European Union was confirmed, it is worth reflecting on the Brexit predictions that characterised the British technology sector, and the broader business sphere, prior to the referendum. It is fair to say that they were not entirely positive. The proposed restrictions to freedom of movement aroused fears of trouble in hiring expertise from abroad. Other business concerns surrounded startup funding, trading tariffs and research grants. Across the commercial sector, various forecasts predicted a slump in overall growth, presenting a degree of uncertainty in terms of decision-making – and at worst, a concerted threat to operations.
Stability Through Disruption
The formal process of leaving the European Union has not begun – nor, for that matter, does it seem particularly imminent – but the signs for investment and growth currently look more positive than the predictions stated above, particularly in terms of recruiting foreign expertise. A number of venture capital firms, such as Index Ventures, Octopus Ventures and Hoxton Ventures, have since committed to the UK in any event, while several tech companies have announced fresh funding in the last month – notably including Santander’s $100m investment in British fintech. There is now plenty of cause to believe that London will remain a vast hub for technical innovation.
This resurgent optimism provides British businesses of all sizes and natures with a platform to navigate a stable course through our departure from the European Union – if they are willing to disrupt the status quo in how they work. That means adopting the open-minded South Korean attitude towards technology, entrusting skill and innovation to spearhead a more prosperous future for business growth and the national economy.
Following The South Korean Philosophy
However, it is all very well to keep saying “technology,” but this is a broad brush of a word. Specifically, how best to use British technology to disrupt and improve long-standing business practices, in the wake of Brexit? Part of the answer comes down to greater awareness regarding core infrastructure. Virtually every business knows, for instance, that they need access to the internet – but what kind of access? There are a number of different connectivity lines on the market, and it is important to understand this in the context of business growth. Businesses need to understand their own capacity requirements if they want to create a scalable solution which can support growing staff numbers and bring sufficient return on investment.
The bulk of all technical innovation, however, is software-based and built in the cloud. These include new programs and applications to support the likes of payroll, CRM, financial transactions and internal communication, all of which can be updated automatically through the cloud to the latest forms of software. The cloud platform provides a business innovation in itself, securely centralising all business data and therefore giving users the chance to access it while using their own devices – from wherever they are on the planet. This allows for more flexible and collaborative working. It is cloud-based architecture that is driving the audio-visual and virtual reality reforms in business – the same reforms which the South Koreans are so profiting from. More imminent is the impact of augmented reality, which can digitally change a real-world-based environment onscreen, in presenting, trialling and selling. We are already seeing its incredible power through consumer commodities such as Pokémon GO – now we are on the cusp of seeing its potential in business.
Flexibility, efficiency and functionality are the driving forces behind commercial British technology, and it is those principles that can also drive a flourishing enterprise in the wake of Brexit. The expertise, the ambition and the clout to create innovation remains in this country, and it is now more important than ever to embrace and develop it. This is because this technology – that which South Korea already exploits – is not only a short-term solution to financial instability. Rather, it is a long-term framework from which to construct a prosperous British economy – even one independent of the European Union.