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What does the Autumn Statement hold for tech startups?

This week the Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement, during which Tech City News and KPMG will be hosting a live debate on his announcements.

But what will our early stage technology businesses be looking for in the pages of detail?

[button link=’http://www.uktech.news/2013/12/05/live-debate-autumn-statement/’]Take part in our Autumn Statement live debate on Thursday[/button]

tim-kayOverall the Government has supported the sector through initiatives such as increased investment in the Technology Strategy Board, launching the Future50 programme and the scope and reach of the R&D Tax Incentives, the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) which have been widened to become more attractive to a broader range of companies and investors.

Steady as she goes

The government has shown it is willing to put its weight behind the sector but will undoubtedly start to come against the question that entrepreneurs know well; “What next?”

I think this Autumn Statement will go down as one of ‘steady as she goes’. When reviewing the three main aspects that trouble the technology sector, there are few levers left for Mr Osborne to pull.

Funding

Public purse strings remain tightly closed and there are unlikely to be significant announcements in relation to financial incentives.

I doubt many people will want a more significant investment role from the government than currently exists in the guise of the Technology Strategy Board, and the most significant announcement in the form of the Business Bank has already been announced, even though it is yet to be operational.

Talent

Short term initiatives to close the talent gap are already in place. The various ‘Entrepreneur Visas’ categories are there and while some of the criteria may be eased it is unlikely in the current political climate to see a material relaxing of these.

The Autumn Statement is unlikely to be the time to announce the specific measures required help businesses to attract sufficient tech talent in the UK.

Access to markets

This year the Autumn Statement had to be pushed back by 24 hours to accommodate the Prime Minister’s visit to China, and in their eyes, the government already provides substantial support to businesses looking to overseas markets.

Be it through the UK Trade and Investment teams in over 100 countries, supporting over 32,000 businesses in 2012/13, or by Sirius, a graduate entrepreneurs programme, and an active drive to bring international capital to the UK.

These will soon be joined by the Future 50 – a programme for a select group of high growth companies.

In summary

Short of providing tax breaks for companies willing to invest in UK technology businesses, I believe it’s a case of ‘over to you’.

As Saul Klein of Index Ventures says:

It’s shameful that with over £1.7tn in market cap and over 6 million employees, the FTSE 100 are still grappling at board and executive levels to understand, never mind take advantage of, savings and opportunities available in a world where 3 billion people are online

The UK private sector must open up to the new world of technology that is being created on its doorstep.

The two groups need to communicate more often and with a better set of reference points – but this won’t be solved in a 90 minute speech in the Houses of Parliament.

Tech City News will host a live web debate covering the latest insights from the Autumn statement from 11:00 on Thursday.

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