Great Britain vs Germany, in 1914

I was reading a book about WWI, and it seems that the British economy was losing out to Germany, in terms of high technology. By 1914, the Germans were outproducing the British in steel, and had surpassed the British in many areas (chemicals, ptics, magnetos and engines, electric motors and so on). Given that the British had pioneered much of this technology, why were they falling behind? In chemicals, for example, the synthetic dye industry: aniline dyes were discovered by a British chemist (Perkins), but by the 1890’s German firms (like IG Fraben, Hoechst, etc.) had taken the bulk of the market. In optics, German firms like Zeiss were far ahead of the BRitish. Was it industrial policy? Or simply more investment on the part of the Germans? Or was it better university eduction?
The British literature of the time is full of reports bemoaning the decline of British industry-what was the real cause of this?

For one thing, Germany industrialized later than Britain, so they had newer, more efficient machinery. And, as you mentioned, Germany had a good university system concentrating on engineering.

It’s like being stuck with NTSC after PAL came along.
Corelli Barnett, in his ‘Pride And The Fall’ trilogy of history books, contends that the British bias against formal [technical] education in favour of the ‘practical man’ who rose from the machine shop floor into management is responsible for a lot of it.

A small hijack, if I may. The joke is that NTSC stands for ‘Never The Same Colour’. I once heard a similar witticism for PAL, but I don’t remember it. Anyone know what it is? (Just to be clear, I’m not looking for Phase Alternating Line; but the joke meaning.)

IIRC PAL “means” ‘Picture Always Lovely’ or ‘Peace At Last’ for the quality and the stability of the signal.

It was a case of Britain being a towering oak that had once stood amidst saplings; the oak was as tall as ever, but the saplings were growing up and Britain was increasingly finding itself just another tree in the forest. Britain’s position by the middle-nineteenth century was so preeminent that virtually any major shift in global production technology would be to Britain’s detriment- there was nowhere to go but down. And this came to pass when railroads allowed landbound countries to achieve the same degree of industry and commerce that had formerly been the exclusive domain of maritime powers. The unification and industrialization of modern Germany restored almost something like the preeminence that the Holy Roman Empire had once had in the same general region. Add to this that the United States, with virtually all the advantages of Britain and simply larger to boot, became an economic competitor at the same time. It wasn’t that Britain did anything wrong, (except perhaps being overinvested in a status quo that was becoming obsolete) so much that the peculiar circumstances that had allowed a tiny island nation to become the greatest imperial power in the world slowly evaporated.

The Germans pioneered organic chemistry more than any other nation, they were significantly ahead of the UK by WW1. Their chemical industry was grown by students of the iconic chemists working in the 1800s, Wohler, Kolbe, Von Baeyer, Liebig, Bunsen, Kekule etc etc. No country has the heritage of Germany in organic chemistry during the 1800s / early 1900s.

The Germans had prepared far better for war, had practiced indirect fire for artillery for example.

It also true that German economists realised that if GB did come into conflict with them, then access to overseas markets, raw materials and engineered products would be lost, along with access to cheaper imported food and grain.One serious expectation was that acces to nitrate deposits would be lost, which in turn would affect both explosives manufacture and fertiliser manufacture - hence the heavy investment in the chemical industry.

Their objective was to win quickly, which is what their military had planned for.

They also knew that if they could not win inside 2 years, their economy would be shot, that their own production would be falling whilst that of GB would be outsrtipping them.

In the event, they did not put France out of the picture, and the British and French military had more access to greater resources (for that read US industrial production), whilst their military learned the hard way how to handle them.