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Government backs tech sector and launches innovation drive

David Bicknell Published 15 November 2017

PM and Chancellor host roundtable for tech luminaries, double visas for digital specialists, invest £21m to turn Tech City into Tech Nation and launch public sector ‘GovTech’ fund


The government is stepping up its investment in tech innovation in the run up to next week’s Budget with a series of headline announcement supporting a roundtable and reception at Downing Street.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond are to meet digital entrepreneurs and innovators as the government announces a series of measures to support the continued growth of the tech sector.

The package of measures to be announced intended to keep the country “at the forefront of global innovation” includes:

  • Doubling to 2,000 the number of visas available to the best talent from around the world, including in digital technology
  • A £21m investment to expand Tech City UK into a nationwide network – Tech Nation – to accelerate the growth of the digital tech sector across the country
  • A new £20m fund to help public services take advantage of UK expertise in innovative technologies like Artificial Intelligence
  • The launch of a £20m training programme which will challenge thousands of young people aged between 14 and 18 to test their skills against simulated online cyber threats

Prime Minister Theresa May said, “Our digital tech sector is one of the UK’s fastest-growing industries, and is supporting talent, boosting productivity, and creating hundreds of thousands of good, high-skilled jobs up and down the country.

“It is absolutely right that this dynamic sector, which makes such an immense contribution to our economic life and to our society, has the full backing of Government.”

She added, “Technology is at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy, and we will continue to invest in the best new innovations and ideas, in the brightest and best talent, and in revolutionary digital infrastructure.

“And as we prepare to leave the European Union, I am clear that Britain will remain open for business. That means Government doing all it can to secure a strong future for our thriving tech sector and ensure people in all corners of our nation share in the benefits of its success.”

The Home Office has said it will work with organisations across the UK to ensure wider take up of the additional visas outside London. Home Secretary Amber Rudd will also meet with technology experts to seek their input on making sure our visa processes are as efficient as possible, the government said.

The new funding for Tech Nation will see the organisation expand its hub model to more cities around the country, including Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Birmingham. Building on the work of existing regional clusters, Tech Nation is intended to support 40,000 entrepreneurs and up to 4,000 start-ups as they scale their businesses.

A new ‘GovTech’ challenge fund will encourage UK firms to use technology to solve challenges facing the public sector, while a dedicated new team acting as a front door into Whitehall to connect tech companies to the right parts of government. It is likely that may include an innovation supporting role for the Government Digital Service (GDS).

A new £2m pilot voucher scheme is also being launched today by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), in Aberdeenshire, Bristol/Bath and North East Somerset, Coventry and Warwickshire, and West Yorkshire.

The  move is part of the government’s pledge to help bring the UK’s fastest and most reliable broadband to homes and businesses across the country. Local companies will be among those offered vouchers by broadband suppliers to pay for ‘gold-standard’ full-fibre gigabit connections, to help ‘revolutionise’ digital infrastructure.

The PM and Chancellor will also confirm that over two million people have now received free digital skills training from businesses such as Barclays, Cisco, Google and Lloyds Banking Group, under the Digital Skills Partnership launched by DCMS earlier this year.

The government pointed out that there are just days left for students to apply for a new apprenticeship and university bursary worth £4,000 a year, being offered by the National Cyber Security Centre as part of an investment in the next generation of cyber security specialists, digital entrepreneurs and tech innovators.

Eileen Burbidge, chair of Tech City UK, said, “We are delighted to hear that the government wants to increase Tech City UK’s funding for the next four years. Under the Tech Nation banner, this country that has brought so much innovation to the world and leads in sub-sectors such as fintech, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics and life sciences, will build a national network of digital excellence so that the UK will continue to be recognised as one of the best places in the world to start or grow a digital tech business.”



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