As I See It: Terry Murden
It’s been said that if closing down the economy was a challenge, then reopening it will be considerably more difficult. Just how do you ensure that employees and customers will not be exposed to the deadly virus, and how viable will businesses be when they are shrouded in a cloak of protective screens and restrictions on movement?
Technology has been nothing short of an economic saviour in ensuring we’ve survived the pandemic. Today’s communications have enable homeworking, team meetings and transactions to continue, in some cases at near normal levels of activity. Yes, we’re all technology businesses now. At least in terms of keeping the show on the road.
The true techies – the software and hardware developers, the coders and now the robotics innovators – are providing the plumbing, the furnaces and the foundations for every industry. Without them, everything from banking to publishing newspapers would have ground to a halt, and firms could not have depended on millions of employees working remotely.
No wonder technology has become the go-to sector for investors seeking out the next big thing, and the employment provider that every city and region wants in its economic portfolio.
Yet, not all is rosy in the technology garden. While the latest Tech Nation report indicates a rising flood of investment and a continuing rise in job vacancies, even through the first weeks of the lockdown, its list of the sector’s achievements comes with a few conditions attached, not least that even this burgeoning sector has depended on government support, particularly for those early stage firms which are pre-revenue.
Though this survey is broadly optimistic about the sector’s ability to navigate the current emergency, it has no immunity from the impact of coronavirus. Technology still exists mainly as an enabler, driving the rest of the economy, so its future relies on the broader level of activity.
Some commentators are forecasting a cull of tech firms that will simply not survive the crisis. Sadly, that will include some of those on the cusp of a breakthrough.
Government schemes have offered some help, but 40% of firms say they have only enough funds to last 12 months. Not all will get the funding they need, not even from tech-hungry private investors.
The possible demise of some of our brightest prospects shows just how uncompromising the pandemic has been and how even businesses that promise us all a new vision of the future cannot guarantee their own.