Lack of support for British tech firms at CES 2017

CES tech show

The organiser of the annual CES tech show has blasted the UK government over failing to sufficiently support British start-ups, claiming it is a “source of embarrassment.”

The criticism came from Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, with one British firm present at CES 2017 saying that Shapiro’s comments were justified.

CES is one of the biggest tech spectacles of the year, and offers the tech creators a chance to gain publicity through offering a platform from which to pitch their creations to journalists and experts. The event runs until Sunday, and is expected to have almost 180,000 participants.

Mr Shapiro said there had been an annual increase in participants, in part because of support from governments. However, he was quick to criticise the lack of support from officials in the UK.

“Britain’s been a little slow to the game honestly. We have a minister from Britain coming but there’s not a lot of activity that we’ve seen at CES. I think it’s a source of embarrassment.

“When I was in London recently, I raised it with one of the ministers, and they said ‘Yeah, it’s amazing. I can get approval to go to South by Southwest [a festival in Texas], but because it’s Las Vegas, for some reason it’s frowned upon’.”

There are almost five times as many companies from France attending CES 2017 as there are from the UK, aided by strong backing from the French government.

A spokeswoman for the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has defended its policies and actions. She said: “The UK continues to be a world-leader in the tech and innovation industry, and events like CES can provide UK businesses with vital contacts to build their brand abroad.

“We want to help UK businesses make the most of trade and investment opportunities including in the US, through targeted support and bespoke business matching that better maximises their presence to win vital contracts abroad.”

In response, Mr Shapiro stressed that he was not looking for subsidies for tech companies’ appearances at CES.

He explained: “Government support is not just funding, I want to make that very clear, It’s political leadership. It’s showing up. It’s a matter of [attracting] attention. We’re having the prince of the Netherlands show up, for example.

“I don’t know why the UK is not responding, because there is a tremendous amount of innovation there.