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“If we don’t innovate, this country will go stale,” says Dragon

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Caan likened the world to a high street. “Imagine walking past shops, where each one represents a country,” he said. “You can pretty much guess what will be in America’s shop window. China will have the same things – but cheaper. But what’s in Britain’s shop window? My vision is to fill it with science, technology and innovation. But first, we need to get rid of the perception that these sectors are about men in white coats.”

Paying tribute to fellow iAwards organiser Lord Drayson, Caan said: “This event marks a firm commitment to Britain’s innovators. It’s been a delight working with Lord Drayson. He has a real ‘can-do’ attitude – and that’s refreshing in government. I’m optimistic the iAwards are going to turn into an annual event.”

Last night’s winners ranged from Powertraveller, creator of a solar-powered digital-device charger, to Opal Contracts, which developed a novel curtain-fixing clip design for disposable curtains.

So would Caan have backed the iAwards finalists if they had appeared on Dragons’ Den. “Absolutely,” he said. “Some of these inventions are life changing.”

When we asked him if he agreed with Lord Sugar, who reportedly referred to business owners as “moaners” and claimed many concerns over lending were down to younger business owners, who had only ever known the “Disney World” credit conditions of the past decade, Caan responded: “It’s tough out there for entrepreneurs. They’ve spent years developing their businesses and the banks just aren’t lending. That’s frustrating. Yes, the economy goes in cycles but I don’t think we’ve seen a credit crunch crisis quite like this one. It’s unique in history.”The iAwards were held in association with QinetiQ at the Science Museum.

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