FOREIGN companies are lined up for a multi-billion pound bonanza introducing the Government’s controversial identity card scheme, with no large British company likely to be involved in leading the project.
Despite frantic lobbying to win some of the business – worth up to £3bn – involved in developing, making and administering the card scheme, foreign multinationals are in pole position to pick up the bulk of the orders, leaving British firms fighting for scraps as junior partners in foreign-led consortia likely to tender for the work. Despite frantic lobbying to win some of the business – worth up to £3bn – involved in developing, making and administering the card scheme, foreign multinationals are in pole position to pick up the bulk of the orders, leaving British firms fighting for scraps as junior partners in foreign-led consortia likely to tender for the work.
The House of Commons voted in favour of the Home Office scheme last week, kicking off a massive and potentially lucrative race for contracts.
Nick Caliperas, director of Britain’s software trade body which has been working closely with the Government on the ID card scheme in an attempt to win work for British companies, says: ‘We think it is much more likely to be a consortium.
‘If it is a consortium, then it is much more likely that some of the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises could benefit because there are a lot of niche areas in this ID cards scheme and the Home Office has been very keen not to prejudice the market.
‘Of course, I would love to see a thriving UK-owned IT industry but all of the companies in the running do make a valuable contribution to the UK economy.’
Big foreign companies already closely linked to the scheme are licking their lips at the prospect of a bumper revenue boost. Holland’s Philips is one of the largest manufacturers of smart cards of the type likely to be required.
French-based Atos Origin and Axalto, which is a subsidiary of American energy services group Schlumberger, have been in charge of the Home Office’s ID card pilot scheme. Other overseas headquartered smart card manufacturers that will hope for a slice of the action include Overture and GemPlus.
Other likely winners could include the makers of the silicon chips that go into the cards, such as France’s Thomson CSF, Germany’s Siemens, and Japan’s Hitachi.
Also in a strong position to pick up business from Britain are Japanese technology giant NEC, which produces an automated fingerprint identification system; Minnesota-based Identix, which provides fingerprint capture and facial matching technology; and Iridian Technologies of New Jersey, which supplies the iris recognition capability.
Bought and published in London Evening Standard, The Daily Mail, 31st of December, 2004