I warned that the coming downturn is likely to be deeper and more prolonged than others in recent years because there will be less scope for interest rate cuts and public expenditure. Inventors in the UK are likely to be affected by falling demand, reduced grant and loan funding, reduced credit, caution on the part of angels, VCs and other investors, rising costs at least in the long term and increasing competition from the BRICs states (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
However, growth in the BRICs states will provide opportunities. Until now we have looked to those countries to outsource manufacturing and services. Those countries are also fast growing markets, powerhouses of research and development and increasingly they will be a source of investment for business in the UK.
There will also be opportunities here. We shall still need to save energy and protect the environment. There will be plenty of demand for innovation in energy conservation, renewables and, of course, the Internet as it continues to develop and expand. I reminded the audience that 1930s, the decade of the worst economic downturn in recent history, was also an age of innovation producing all sorts of important inventions from ballpoint pens and sellotape to jet engines and radar.
Economic difficulties are likely to make invention promoters that much more tempting. They are to be avoided like the plague. Stephen Nipper has started a discussion on what to do about these people on his blog ("Counseling (sic) Victims of Invention Promotion Companies" 15 Oct 2008).