Blog Jul 2016

What the Brexit vote means for innovation leaders

The UK has voted to leave the EU. So how can we make this work for the UK and its partners across Europe and the world?

The UK has voted to leave the EU. So how can we make this work for the UK and its partners across Europe and the world?

Many media commentators have talked up the risks facing the UK and EU – bad news sells papers! But the ultimate scale of change will likely be less than the pundits would have us believe. Successful trade, whether in services, IP or physical products, is underpinned by enduring relationships between businesses and people. 

For leading innovators, the challenge is a familiar one. Breakthrough ideas are rarely defeated by trade tariffs or other protectionist measures. Those are only a few of the mountains that must be climbed to bring great ideas to market.

There’s good news too for our overseas partners: over time, with the falling value of sterling, the services of UK companies may become better value. And there are many innovative companies based in the UK. The country has a reputation for creative thinking and the surprise result of the Brexit vote can act as a catalyst for change. The unusual degree of political and economic fluidity will trigger fresh thinking and create opportunities for innovation.

The vote to leave, is a step to Brexit but is not legally binding. We hope that the next stage will see an improvement in the quality of the debate. Too often it has been xenophobic and insular, pandering to the lowest-common denominator. And that’s contrary to what innovators stand for: the power of possibility, seeing things differently, creating opportunity. Great innovation often works precisely because it brings together ideas and people from different spheres. The best innovation practitioners nurture their connections to people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

The result of the Brexit vote shows that not everyone perceives globalisation as a force for good. Some commentators present this as a shortfall in communication; others point to people who have been left behind. In the thriving international economy of Cambridge, 74% voted to remain in the EU. Our challenge is to bring the benefits of innovation to all walks of life.


Written by: Alastair MacGregor

Alastair believes in the power of innovation to change the world, something that is needed now more than ever. He helped found Innovia Technology in 1999, and serves as CEO and Chairman. Innovia works with many of the best companies in the world – P&G, J&J, PepsiCo, Shell, BASF, ABB, Southwest Airlines – helping them to achieve their strategic goals by transforming the performance, relevance and sustainability of their products and services.