SMEs vital in surveillance arms race, says 3i

Innovation happens at the grassroots

Small businesses in the UK will be critical to the success of Home Office proposals for a security innovation forum, according to venture capitalists at 3i.

In a speech at the Security and Resilience Forum, home secretary John Reid said that pioneering technology would be crucial in staying one step ahead of terrorists. He said the UK has to "speed the execution of delivery" of the surveillance devices produced by the security industry.

"It is vital that our enterprises sustain the delivery of innovation at a pace that outstrips our adversaries," he added.

Matthew Mead, partner at 3i, said that if the government chooses to focus all its effort on the big name technology vendors, it risks stifling innovation: "The UK has a long and impressive heritage in developing leading security technologies and making significant technological advances. To combat the threats facing us, it is key that this is recognised at all levels."

The VC firm presents Chronicle Solutions as an example of the level of innovation it thinks Reid needs to tap into. CS sells communications monitoring technology. Company CEO Nick Kingsbury argues that much of the innovation in this sector is happening in smaller companies. "It is not the province of the technology corporations," he said.

3i says that the main challenge facing technology companies is to find technologies that give the government the edge over the bad guys, while not restricting civil liberties. ®

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