TechUK publishes strategy for next government to ‘build a better Britain’
TechUK has published a detailed plan ahead of the next UK general election – which will most likely take place next year – with suggestions on how the next government can use tech to ‘build a better Britain’.
The trade association’s “UK Tech Plan” was devised following concern among its members that politicians are not doing enough to support the sector’s growth.
TechUK noted that, if well supported, the UK tech sector could add roughly £200 billion per year to the economy by the mid-2020s, up from the $150bn a year it currently adds.
Among the key suggestions from the association’s 1000-strong members (who range from SMEs to global businesses) are plans ‘to fix the UK’s broken scale-up economy’ so that British-based firms can become global entities.
This point addresses the perception that the UK is a good place for start-ups but an unsupportive one for scale-ups – as once tech firms reach a certain size they are forced to look to foreign investors for funding.
In The Plan, techUK estimates the scale-up gap – which represents hundreds of lost high growth businesses which have exited the UK market via a sale of relocating to secure their growth elsewhere – to be around £15bn a year.
As well as continuing with planned reforms to UK pension and institutional funds, the plan suggests that the government also launch a British ‘Scale-up Sprint’.
The sprint, said The Plan, would comprise of investors, businesses, government and regulators who, over a six-month period, would collaborate to create new opportunities to invest in critical technologies such as green tech, AI, quantum and semiconductors.
On the subject of semiconductors – while The Plan didn’t directly acknowledge the concerns of Britain’s homegrown silicon chip firms (who are still threatening to move overseas, even after the government announced its much-delayed chip strategy last month) it did appear to accept that the way forward was through bilateral trade agreements.
On page 49 of The Plan authors acknowledged that British industries can’t afford to undergo further supply chain delays on silicon chips, as experienced during the pandemic, and more trade agreements on chips – such as the one reached with chip producing nations such as Japan last month – were vital.
“These bottlenecks need to be overcome by working with allies to diversify the supplies of chips from high end silicon to new technologies such as compound semi conductors which will play a vital role as the EV industry grows,” the plan said.
“The UK needs to build a smarter approach to foreign and trade policy in a more complex and less secure world.”
According to a UK Tech Plan, other areas where government and UK tech firms could work better together on is through investing in AI and machine learning to facilitate the delivery of a Central Bank Digital Currency (sometimes referred to as a ‘digital pound’) which, it adds, would ensure that the UK ‘holds on to its fintech crown’.
British tech firms also appear to want to reform some areas of procurement into public services.
Reforming the way that the existing £2.1bn earmarked for NHS and social care digital transformation is spent is one suggestion “so that we can better onboard the technologies that will cut waiting times, save staff hours and support more preventative treatment” reasoned The Plan.
The Plan cites the example of the Integrated Patient Controlled Medical Record project – a joint venture between Luton & Dunstable Hospital and Cambridge Community Services – known as ‘Patients Know Best’ – which has successfully piloted a patient controlled medical record for children with epilepsy.
The Plan would also involve rethinking how technology can support the criminal justice system given the growing incidents of cyber crime: It says that over a 13-month period there were 350,000 reports of cyber and fraud related crime in the UK, amounting to a £4.1bn cost to the public.
One suggestion to combat cyber crime and encourage innovation is by introducing a sandbox to test the applications of new innovative technologies in Justice and Emergency Services, which prioritised SME participation and would “ help to reduce barriers to entry for early-stage innovators.”
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