In a month when everyone is remembering the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall I had an interesting conversation with a senior sales executive of a leading European battery maker.
The theme of the dialogue was which European country was leading the way in innovative design these days. The executive meets and talks to OEM designers on a daily basis and is probably as well placed as anyone to make an assessment. His comments suggest that more than one revolution has occurred in the past 20 years in Germany. He said: "We are finding that the innovations are now coming more from Germany and Scandinavia. The Germans seem to have become more innovative than they were. They have been well known for their systematic approach to design projects but now they seem to be adding more innovation into the mix".
The executive was a Scotsman, which is a nation well known for its pedigree in engineering innovation, but he was less than encouraged with what he was seeing coming out of the UK these days. He commented: "We don't find the UK is as innovative as it used to be. The UK used to be an 'ideas engine'. I would say the UK innovation influence has been steadily worse since 2000."
He reckoned that in the past the UK always used to have a steady flow of creative ideas and tended to be at the forefront of what was being developed but he said that no longer seems to be the case.
"Young people in the UK are not coming up with ideas as they were in the past. Now it is unusual to find engineers in their 20s any longer. We see plenty in their 30s and 40s but not too many youngsters."
Any UK youngsters out there want to defend their corner then I would love to hear from you.