The Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s and 1800s changed the face of manufacturing across the globe. Advances in steam power and mechanisation allowed manufacturing to be accelerated dramatically, turning it into an industry that shaped the Western world as we know it.
We are now seeing the same in the startup world. Tech City and the the rapid growth of small technology businesses in the UK is nothing new, and the ‘digital revolution' touted by the technology industry and government is well underway.
But I think we are now on the cusp of seeing the industrialisation of startups and digital technology. As a reporter covering this area, I am invited to visit various startup incubators, accelerators and showcase centres on a regular basis.
It is in these centres that I find myself drawing parallels with the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.
The centres are essentially startup factories churning out new businesses at a heady rate. Just take a look at V3's Startup Spotlight to see how many small businesses and technology entrepreneurs pop up on a weekly basis.
Instead of steam engines and Spinning Jennys, we see cloud computing, mobile devices and collaboration tools speeding up the development and deployment of tech startups.
Assembly lines are replaced by agile development and idea sharing that gets concepts off the ground and online in a matter of weeks.
Air conditioning replaces the smog of the factory floor, and the sound of fingers on keyboards represents the grinding cogs.
In place of steely-eyed overseers, you will find the giants of the technology industry who set up the centres and provide the tools for startups to manufacture their ideas.
Cisco, Microsoft, BT, Virgin and IBM are all involved in the UK's startup scene and appear to be watching hungrily as their technology is integrated with concepts and ideas that might have got lost in a corporate quagmire if such development was done in-house.
Further parallels can be drawn with the venture capitalists of the Industrial Revolution and those from the digital age.
Rather than twirling canes and doffing top hats, today's investors are tapping on smartphones and connecting with LinkedIn.
Yet they are still keen to channel their money into a share of the ‘next big thing', only this time it is cloud software and the Internet of Things, not railways and ships.
Even the moustaches of the industrial era have seen a renaissance with the startup community, as many digital entrepreneurs sport facial hair plucked straight out of a period drama.
I would like to coin the term 'digital industrialisation' for this flurry of activity in the UK's startup scene.
And I believe it could shift Britain away from a potentially stagnating service industry back towards its manufacturing roots, only this time with ones and zeros instead of cotton and iron.
The Tech Nation report showed that the effects of this digital industrialisation can be seen across the UK, from the tech capital of London to once industrial bastions of the North and the Welsh valleys.
All of which has the potential significantly to improve Britain's GDP and create thousands of new jobs.
However, it is important to temper this positive outlook with a caveat in the form of Silicon Valley.
The US technology powerhouse is far more mature than the chaotic mass of startups in the UK, and is able to offer more support for technology firms looking to grow beyond their humble beginnings.
This is where the UK struggles. Nurturing startups into growing 'scaleups' through additional funding and support appears to be the missing link in the UK's technology industry.
Much is on offer for supporting early stage startups from the likes of the Digital Catapult, and the UK is a welcoming place for big businesses looking to establish a European headquarters.
But support is hard to come by for companies that have created solid business foundations and now wish to grow to the next level.
Silicon Valley, on the other hand, is only too keen to accommodate scaleups and propel them to stock market flotation and growth funding. Just look at Box.
If the UK fails to find ways to cultivate support for businesses to grow at scale, Britain could lose them to the US, cutting a hole in GDP and eroding a source of future jobs.
This concern has been raised and more programmes are cropping up to support next stage startups, but I believe more will be needed if Britain is to see its digital revolution evolve into full-scale digital industrialisation.
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