One of my co-authors of BIG POTATOES: the London Manifesto for Innovation, James Woudhuysen and I have just published an article on government and regulation on spiked-online, titled, ‘How the state is a roadblock to progress’ in which we argue that red tape-obsessed, visionless governments are holding back the kind of big and risky innovation society needs today.

This will be a constant theme we hope to expand upon when we launch BIG POTATOES this month. (Watch this space for an imminent announcement!). We concluded the article as follows:

“Innovation however, means making a persistent stab into the unknown. And the unknown cannot be regulated. We cannot routinise what we don’t yet know. Attempts to render technological change more predictable and ‘responsible’ can only mean closing down experiment and exploration.

“Innovation is a risky business. Technological innovation creates new problems, and can even lead to deaths. On the whole, however, mankind solves those new problems. However, the contemporary impeding of innovation through regulation reflects not just the momentary lapse of a government functionary, but a dyed-in-the-wool cultural malaise, a deep antipathy to taking chances, and a fundamental nervousness about spending money on risky enterprises.

“The over-regulation of innovation has acquired its own dynamic. What is now needed isn’t regulatory reform, but a sizeable – if discriminating – bonfire of controls that is more than merely rhetorical. To move Britain and the world forward, the deregulation of innovation is now an urgent imperative.


  1. Very good article with some buts. The importance of killing New Scientism and science = religion (cf. CAGW) is well-described. However, scientists screaming against religious proscription then make science into another religion. Not smart.
    Not convinced that just prescribing a bonfire is helpful.
    There is almost no scientific understanding among the ‘elite’. CP Snow’s 2 cultures is alive and well. This has serious consequences for scientists, the elite and the public.
    Government-funded science in state-run universities probably has no potential for innovation. The importance of serendipity and ‘do no harm’ needs to be recognised. The authors have touched on the role of ‘craft’ people actually doing the innovation. Not popular with the soi-disant (troughing) elite.
    The established approach to regulating innovative technology is goal-setting or use of principles. The FSA managed to get this a bad reputation, which needs to be fixed. Who shall guard the watchman is an important question for all regulators, who need to give assurance of being awake and not subject to regulatory capture.

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