Gavin Patterson, BT’s CEO, has expressed his fear that the UK’s exit from the European Union may have an adverse effect on the telco’s R&D capabilities.
Noting that the telco is the third largest investor in R&D in the UK over the last 10 years (behind the two major pharmaceutical companies) and the world’s second largest investor in the fixed telco sector behind Japan’s NTT, Patterson told industry opinion formers attending the company’s Innovation Week at its Adastral Park technology campus that BT’s technology leadership were helping to take a leadership role in areas such as optical fibre research and compelling, immersive TV and entertainment services, using technology such as virtual reality and 4K UHD to give customers the best possible experience.
“It’s not just about our own innovation, it’s about collaboration,” he admitted. “History shows that just look inward at their own technologies often miss out on real game-changers. Real innovation happens when you are part of an ecosystem.”
He described Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as “a big risk” suggesting that R&D was one of the things that the UK continues to be a world leader in. “Our universities are among the best in the world,” he asserted. “It’s critical and fundamental to the way we run our business. At its heart, R&D is a collaborative process so ensuring that we can continue to attract the best scientists and engineers to this country and that they are able to get the right funding or access the right networks is key. The Government has said it will call this out as a priority for the Brexit negotiations and because the UK does extraordinarily well out of the current EC funding models because our universities are so strong. We need to make sure we don’t lose that competitive edge,” he concluded.