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Cambridge tech boss rips gov over innovation cash

'We'll all be painted blue and dancing for tourists'

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The head of one of the UK's top innovation centres has predicted a future for British citizens as impoverished peasants, painted blue and dancing for tourists because funding for high tech innovation has been pulled.

Walter Herriot, Director of St John's Innovation Centre in Cambridge he said, the money needed for this operation has been diverted to "support for first-time house buyers".

The Innovation Centre is today presenting another two dozen promising start-ups, based on ideas developed in the Cambridge "Cluster" associated with the University.

But funding for this incubation centre has been pulled, said Heriot. He accused the government of "mortgaging the future" of the UK.

He said: "The St John's Innovation Centre has been funded one way or another by government over the past 15 years, to assist early stage businesses ... last year it assisted 400 companies with advice and guidance. Companies that used its services were more than three times more likely to obtain finance, than those who do not.

"However, this programme has now been 'terminated' as the Regional Development Agency budget has been slashed by central government, with funding diverted to social projects - although announced as fresh money."

Herriot denounced the social projects as absurd: "My understanding it that the Innovation Advisory Service has £100,000 on the table. With that sort of money, it will be a Derisory Service, not Advisory. That's all that there is on the table." And the reason, he said, is that £100m is to be given to first-time house buyers.

"You can debate whether the package for first-time buyers will be effective or not - most people say probably not - but just think what we could do with a hundred million pounds!"

The government, said Herriot, "tends to regard the UK economy in isolation, and doesn't take account of our competitors - they don't consider what is going on in the Tiger economies of China, Singapore, India, and indeed, Saudi Arabia. And we don't have the money needed to pay bribes - like the $30m which Vistec was paid to move to New York as part of a $3bn nanoscale technology centre." ®

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