A supersonic age approaches, does this disprove tech cynics?

A US start-up from Colorado claims to be close to developing the technology to provide supersonic air travel, and more efficiently than what was once provided by Concorde. Maybe tech cynics need to take note – and the world can thank entrepreneurs.

When Peter Theil, co-founder of PayPal, said we were promised flying cars but we got 140 characters, he was eluding to a sense that technology was not living up to the dreams of yesteryear. Twitter is great, but it’s not quite like flying cars. The world envisioned in programmes such as The Jetsons, the 1950s cartoon set in the future, seemed more elusive than ever.

Sure, we have iPhones, but the present is a disappointment compared to what many expected the second decade of the 21st century to be like half a century ago.

It’s all part of the narrative that technological progress is slowing, a narrative advanced by Robert Gordon, the economist from North Western University, who says we need to get used to much slower growth, as innovation isn’t like it used to be.

And the technology cynics, to whom Robert Gordon is like a high-priest, after pointing out that in 2017, thanks to traffic congestion, it takes longer to get anywhere than ever before, then cite air-travel.

We have gone backwards, they say. Concorde, the first passenger aircraft that could travel faster than the speed of sound, was de-commissioned 15 years ago.

Well, in the last few months a spat of companies have announced they are working on a flying car, Elon Musk reckons he can solve traffic congestion by boring tunnels underground, and solve the problem of travelling a few hundred miles with hyperloop, offering speeds of 700 miles per hour plus.

But now, a start-up from Colorado, Boom Aerospace, reckons it is close to being able to build an aircraft that can travel supersonic, for less money than Concorde cost, and creating much less noise. Concorde, for those who don’t recall, was a beautiful plane, but it was maddeningly expensive, and very, very noisy.

Boom claims to have persuaded five airlines to buy into its designs – although only one has gone public, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic.

The early days of the motor car and aircraft saw a cacophony of entrepreneurs, the likes of the Wright Brothers and Otto Benz, it was people like that who made the dream of air travel and horseless carriages possible.

What the technology cynics underestimate is entrepreneurial spirit, and that is why the UK needs to celebrate and support a new entrepreneurial spirit in the UK.

The UK is emerging an entrepreneurial success story – but more needs to be done, and one way to achieve this is to shine the media spotlight on entrepreneurs, their challenges, their failures and of course their successes.

The NatWestGreat British Entrepreneur Awards are currently open for applications, and entrants can apply here