was recently invited to be a witness at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, which was looking into the risks arising from foreign investments in UK tech businesses, the viability of screening investments on national security grounds and the wider implications of tighter Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) controls on this flourishing sector. The committee was seeking to understand to what extent the UK is under threat from attempts by hostile actors to asset-strip key technologies and industries.
I was attending in my dual capacity as founder and CEO of crayfish.io (itself a technology-driven startup) and as co-vice chair of the UK-China Tech Forum. I was asked, as an opener, if I had any knowledge of issues with intellectual property (IP), tech transfer and hostile takeovers arriving out of foreign investment within the UK. I don’t and never have.
Companies do have problems with intellectual property in foreign countries (including China) – but that’s not because of having a foreign investor. Often, in that marketplace, it’s down to problems with distributors, customers or suppliers. But it’s definitely not caused by foreign investment, and I do not believe there should be a blanket prohibition.