Earlier this year, Theresa May described the UK technology industry as a “great British success story”. There is no doubt that in investment terms, the UK has a thriving sector. But, it is essential that we are not complacent. Clouds are hanging over the industry with countries such as France stepping up their efforts to lure companies away and entrepreneurs concerned whether they will have access to talent after the UK leaves the EU.
Ahead of the Budget speech today, there are two key things the Government could do to support the UK tech industry.
First, investment. The Government has made multiple spending commitments, including a recent announcement of £21 million to support regional tech hubs. While these are welcome, we need to ensure that private risk capital continues to be encouraged. We would urge the Government not to be tempted to water down schemes such as EIS as well as providing a tax system that helps entrepreneurs to invest and take on staff.
Second, leadership. There has been much discussion about the UK’s low productivity, with higher rates of technology adoption seen as the answer. New technologies such as IoT, AI and machine learning are solutions to many of the efficiency problems the UK faces. Across the public sector, with funding constraints and staffing issues, the need for technology has never been more apparent. However, what is lacking is a clear mandate across all aspects of national and local government to make technology adoption a priority, supported by funding.
A clear directive from the Treasury for the public sector to back UK tech could be transformative. With the right framework, including as part of the tendering process, all Government departments and services such as health and education should be told to prioritise investment in technology to improve efficiency. Going one step further, they should be encouraged to partner with UK start-ups on innovation.
There are so many exciting things coming out of start-ups that could transform our public services. For example, there would be less pressure on GPs if patients could better diagnose themselves or devices that check whether people with chronic conditions are taking their medicine. Make savings in Government buildings by deploying smart technology to manage lights and heating.
The key to success is encouraging data harvesting. There is so much data from all across our public services which if correctly analysed and combined with AI, machine learning and IoT technology could revolutionise the State.
As well as benefiting public services, it could be a real boost for the UK tech sector. The success of a start-up can often hinge on their ability to commercialise their tech. Having the support of the Government through long-term contracts but also the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of their products in a live environment could be a valuable step in the development of a start-up.
This is a critical Budget for lots of different reasons as the Government seeks to deal with life post-Brexit as well as balancing the books. If it places technology at the heart of it, then it can also be one that delivers sustained growth for our technology sector.
(Emanuele Angelidis, CEO. Originally published here)