Budget 2020: Invest in tech to unleash Britain’s potential

9 Mar 2020 02:17 PM

The UK Government must invest in tech to accelerate growth, level up the country and tackle the climate emergency.

In its submission to the March 2020 Budget, ‘Fast Forward’ techUK sets out its proposals to achieve the Government’s aims of accelerating UK growth, levelling up the country, and taking on the climate emergency in order to unleash Britain’s potential.

Figures released by DCMS last month show that the tech sector continues to be one of the leading lights of the UK economy, growing 7.9% from 2017 to 2018, nearly six times faster than the economy as a whole and adding £149 billion overall. This equates to more than £400 million per day.

The submission sets out a number of proposals across three priorities for Government: accelerating UK growth, levelling up the country, and tackling the climate emergency.

Accelerating growth

Putting digital at the heart of business will lead to productivity gains. To achieve this the Government must:

Levelling up the country

To make sure that the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are spread across the country, this Budget should contain plans to:

Tackling the climate emergency

This Government must be ambitious in its plans to use the power of technology to take on the climate crisis and allow the UK to secure a global comparative advantage in green tech. Progress towards this can be made by:

techUK CEO Julian David yesterday said:

“The new Chancellor has an opportunity, unlike any other in recent times, to be ambitious in accelerating UK growth, levelling up the country, and taking on the climate emergency.

“He must recognise tech has a fundamental role to play in solving all three of these, whether that be in addressing the UK’s deep-seated productivity problems, creating the infrastructure to enable the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or using powerful tools such as AI to decarbonise the economy and give the UK a global greentech comparative advantage.

“We also want this Government to be ambitious in the creation of a UK ARPA. This would be a welcome step to fundamentally challenge the way we do R&D in this country, putting booster rockets beneath the UK’s industrial strategy and expanding our capacity to develop generation-defining technologies at home.

“By following the suggestions set out in techUK’s budget submission, the new chancellor can achieve his aims and lay the groundwork for a prosperous new decade for people, society, the economy, and the planet.”

You can read the full suggestions in techUK’s budget submission here.

Headline proposals in the techUK budget submission ‘Fast Forward’:

Digitisation of SMEs and building tech clusters: techUK has set out a three-pronged approach based on a digital adoption fund, digital business links, and tech clusters. Each of the three seek to offer support to companies at different levels leverage tech to succeed.

Long tail productivity remains a persistent problem, limiting overall UK growth. We need an ambitious package such as this one which could put over 100,000 businesses on the digital ladder.

For established SMEs, using digital platforms can play a vital role in expanding their business. However, too few are taking it up. Just 18% of SMEs use digital platforms to export, for example. To allow business to use technology to scale, we need to offer them a place to go when they ask, ‘what can tech do to take my business to the next level?’

We already have impressive hubs, such as autonomous vehicle and battery development based in the West Midlands, and medtech and fintech solutions based in Edinburgh and Leeds. However, we need to be proactive in turning these into international centers of excellence, similar to the Beer-Sheva cybersecurity cluster in Israel.

A road map to full fibre and supporting investment: The Government has made ambitious commitments to rollout full fibre by 2025. We support these ambitions. However, to get there the Government must do two things:

Full fibre and 5G are the essential building blocks of the digital economy. Without the delivery of this infrastructure there is a limit on what we can achieve for the UK digital economy.

ARPA: DARPA has powered much of the US’s tech success, with projects responsible for the development of generation-defining technologies for the internet to touch screens. To be successful a UK ARPA needs:

techUK has a unique insight into ARPA with some of DARPA’s biggest partners in our membership. We want to work with Government to create a long-term shift in UK R&D and one which has a mission statement to put boosters under the UK’s industrial strategy.

Green tech solutions - Ahead of COP26 techUK has put forward a number of proposals to grow the green tech industry in the UK, as well as help the Government reach the net zero target:

A joint study by BT and Accenture highlighted that with the right policy framework and climate leadership, digital technologies could support reductions of 50% of overall carbon emissions. Green tech is also a huge growth and export opportunity for the UK. Becoming a world-leader and exporter in green tech will allow us to hit the net zero target while maintaining a pro-growth agenda.