- They are prevented by state aid rules from offering aid to firms.
- So, they identify areas that the UK might be good at and where markets will be substantial. They then set up a network in that area and invite companies etc. to come and participate in that network. So for example, a small firm who would want to get finance from a Euro research grant would join that network and make an application through the network. Or, there might be money from InnovateUK, the past TSB, that could be applied for.
- To get this working they have to identify some technologies to get into and some to not. That very hazardous. So they try to keep things general e.g. setting up a platform in exchanging information. Nonetheless, it does mean they have to guess what technologies will be big and we will be good at. In 1967 Sir Donald Gibson, Director of R&D at the Ministry of Public Building and Works, suggested a new airport made of expanded polystyrene floating on the mud flats of the Thames. Passengers would travel to this remarkable construction by hovercraft. I see there is not catapult centre on floating polystyrene airports. How do we know that is not going to be winning technology?
- The constraint they cannot offer aid is important. in answer to the question, what can you do for a small firm they cannot do themselves, it is not that they can get money. It is that they can help the small firm join the network and then stand a chance of getting money which would otherwise be too complicated to get hold of. In that case, it would be better to simplify the process.