UK immigration policy 'damaging IT industry'

Mike Lynch, the UK's first Internet billionaire, has slammed the UK government for failing to attract the 'brightest and the best' from around to world

The chief executive of Autonomy attacked the UK government on Tuesday for what he claims is its "parochial" and "crazy" attitude to immigration.

Mike Lynch, founder of the search and knowledge management specialist who at the height of the dot-com boom became the UK's first Internet billionaire, said that the UK's IT economy could be set back irrecoverably unless the government relaxes its current stance on allowing the "brightest and the best" to freely move into the country.

"The idea that a bright student from Africa may be stopped from entering this country is a shot in the foot for both the UK and Africa," said Lynch. "The current parochial attitudes to immigration in this country are just crazy."

Lynch made the comments at the second day of the Commonwealth Technology Forum 2005 in London.

Addressing an audience from places such as Africa, India, China and Europe, Lynch said that ideas of regional competition were outdated, and that international cooperation was the way forward.

"I don’t believe in regional competition. Technology is always about cooperation. In the modern tech environment you need to be able to open up to the brightest and the best," said Lynch.

The current UK immigration system is widely seen as overly complicated. The government is committed to replacing it with a points-based system for migrants who wish to come to the UK to work or study. Under this plan, IT specialists would be counted as highly skilled, giving them enough points to enter the country without a job before finding work or setting up a business.

Lynch, whose company makes software designed to manage and organise unstructured data, also discussed future innovation and said that advances in storage would mean that it would soon be possible to catalogue an entire life from start to finish.

"We are about four years away from a disk drive that can store my entire life, based on a still shot every few seconds, and telephone phone quality audio"

Lynch also told the audience that he was pleased that the European software patent directive had been rejected, dismissing it as "a very bad idea."