LTW 2022: Rishi Sunak announces UK’s new Digital Strategy
The UK government has launched a new Digital Strategy which aims to create jobs, strengthen skills, boost talent and infrastructure in the country’s tech market.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and minister for DCMS Nadine Dorries took the stage at this week’s London Tech Week to reveal the new framework, which was delayed from early 2020 following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Business lobby groups have been calling on the government for an overarching tech strategy for some time now, with tech bosses complaining of a lack of talented workers since Brexit. Current estimates suggest the skills gap is costing the UK economy as much as £63bn.
The new strategy – an update on the government’s 2017 plan – is largely focused on ensuring that the UK’s public and private tech infrastructure is fit for purpose.
Sunak said new measures to keep the UK’s tech sector “fit for the future” include an external review of the UK’s computer processing capabilities, as well as a new expert council to tackle the digital skills gap. The council will bring together industry leaders and training experts from companies ranging from Amazon Web Services to neo-bank Starling.
Working directly with employers, the council – led by digital minister Chris Philp and Phil Smith, chair of British semiconductor firm IQE – will encourage investment in employer-led training to upskill workforces.
During his speech at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in Westminster, Sunak also announced a new ‘Hyper Potential Visa’ which will allow people who have graduated from top universities abroad to go through a smoother visa process to get into the UK and support them in building their own tech start-up.
Another key announcement was the start of an external review into the future of compute to ensure the UK has the capacity it needs to maximise the potential for AI, Internet of Things sensors and quantum computing. The review will be led by machine learning specialist Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, vice president of research at Google.
Estimates suggest the government’s approach to supporting and strengthening the digital economy could grow the value of the UK’s goods and services by £41.5bn by 2025 and create a further 678,000 jobs.
In his speech, Sunak added that tech innovation generated around half of the UK’s productivity growth over the last 50 years but that this is now slowing down. However, he added that the rise of AI may herald a new wave of innovation.
“What really matters for economic success is innovation. If we want our country to succeed, we need to do what we’ve always done and embrace new technologies and the people and culture that creates them,” Sunak noted.
He added: “If we can back our capital, people, and ideas. If we encourage that incredible spirit 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.”
Meanwhile Dorries – secretary of state for UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – used her speech to outline some of the UK’s recent success stories. She unveiled new figures that reveal over £12bn in venture capital funding has been secured by UK tech start-ups and scaleups this year already.
That puts the UK just behind the US and ahead of China on funding secured by tech start-up firms in the year to date, she added.
Dorries also stated that last year a new tech unicorn (one that is valued at £1bn or more) was created every 11 and a half days in the UK – and that this was more than double the number of UK unicorns from 2017.
On the new Digital Strategy, she said: “Essentially, this is the roadmap that the entire government will follow for the next decade to reinforce our status as a global tech superpower.”
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