The government has published its ‘Digital Strategy’ policy paper, laying out a plan to make the UK a tech superpower, as Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Chanceller Rishi Sunak both attended the opening day of London Tech Week.
Dorries said the strategy would also involve creating a new Digital Skills Council to help “plug the skills gap” in the tech sector, as well as looking to “capitalise on the freedoms we now have to set our own standards and regulations” now that the UK has left the EU.
The policy paper states that the UK will be “the best place in the world to start and grow a technology business”. It also claims that “estimates commissioned by the Government suggest that our approach to supporting and strengthening the digital economy could grow the UK tech sector’s annual gross value added (GVA) by an additional £41.5bn by 2025 and create a further 678,000 jobs”.
The policy paper’s introduction also draws specific attention to the UK’s – more specifically, London’s – reputation as a global financial hub, saying that “the UK should always enthusiastically celebrate the success of our digital businesses and champion our global leadership in areas such as fintech. The success and wealth created by investors and founders of digital business is a national success, to be applauded, encouraged and emulated – not criticised”. Surprisingly, no reference is made to reforming the UK’s less desirable reputation as arguably the money-laundering capital of the world.
The ‘Future of Compute Review’ is also part of the Digital Strategy and will produce recommendations to support the government’s ambitions for the UK to become a science and technology superpower.
Speaking at the opening of the Tech Week event, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that the UK must “embrace new technologies” if it wants to succeed in the future.
Sunak said that supporting innovation was key to the UK’s economic success and that the country must back “capital, people and ideas”.
“If we get this right, if we back our capital, people and ideas, if we can encourage that incredible spirit that I see everywhere in this country, then we can be confident that Britain stands on the cusp of a new era of innovation and change.”
Sunak said the government was reforming the UK’s listing rules to make it easier for companies to raise funding and highlighted recently announced visa changes to allow more “high potential” individuals from global top 50 universities into the UK to boost ideas and skills.
The Chancellor was speaking in the wake of new figures which showed that UK tech companies have raised more venture capital funding in the first five months of 2022 than in the whole of 2020.
The £12.4bn in funding raised so far this year puts the UK second only to the US in terms of start-up investment, ahead of the likes of China, France and India.
However, it was confirmed on Monday that the UK economy contracted for the second month in a row in April – the first back-to-back fall since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy, fell by 0.3 per cent in April, with all three main sectors suffering a fall in output for the first time since January 2021.
As part of his plan for embracing innovation, the Chancellor announced the new Future of Compute Review, which will look at the UK’s computing needs and how to develop cost-effective solutions to ensure researchers and industry have access to the high-performance computers needed to power future technologies.