The trouble with government agencies is that they are run by people with consensual mind-sets. So when the government establishes an agency to foster innovation, it’s establishing an oxymoron.
What an excellent thing it would be if the many agencies set up by the government to foster high-tech innovation were to devote funds to start-up companies which have innovative products and innovative ways to bring them to market.
There is no better vehicle for this than the chips of Bristol-based XMOS Semiconductor which are cheap but can be programmed quickly to perform significant functions.
Innovative product ideas can be put into XMOS silicon and marketed in a couple of months from product conception, for a few tens of thousands of dollars.
This makes start-up chip companies possible again, at a time when the multi-tens of millions of dollars they need to get a product to market via the conventional ASIC route has all but made them an endangered species.
XMOS has a customer which got a product to market in nine months for $100,000. So a mere $1 million could fund ten semiconductor start-ups and $200 million, the amount of VC money which Icera has raised, could fund 2,000 semiconductor start-ups which used the XMOS chip.
Herman Hauser’s Amadeus VC firm is toying with the idea of a fund to back new companies which use the XMOS chip, and Jon Howes of the technology consultancy NeUW has talked to VCs and government agencies to promote the idea.
But the government agencies should be taking the lead. If they de-risk, to an extent, the VC proposition, then this idea which is kicking around might get kick-started.
Will the government agencies act? Well the agencies tend to prefer to put their money into things they can see – like the bricks and mortar of a science park, or an incubator. That’s because government agencies tend to employ sensible, reasonable, consensus-seeking people.
Can these people seed progress? Not according to George Bernard Shaw.
‘A reasonable man adapts himself to his environment. An unreasonable man persists in attempting to adapt his environment to suit himself,” said Shaw, “therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”