The government wants to make the UK a “tech superpower” by 2030. In its latest effort to meet this ambitious goal, the government has published an International Technology Strategy that will form a roadmap for its actions overseas.
Following the release of the National Quantum Strategy, as part of the Spring Statement, the new International Technology Strategy lays out a plan to support tech investment, encourage international tech collaboration, and strengthen the UK’s cyber security defences.
The strategy was published last week by the Department for Science, Technology and Innovation alongside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
It describes the six technologies that the government is prioritising in its quest to become a tech superpower: AI, quantum computing, bioengineering, semiconductors, telecoms, and data.
“Technology is fundamentally global – digital services and critical supply chains operate across borders,” said Michelle Donelan, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology. “To create the free, secure, prosperous world we want to see, and we want our children to live in, we cannot act alone.
“It is pivotal that we work with our international partners and allies to support our shared growth, address global challenges and build momentum behind a digital and tech future that reflects our values.”
But what exactly is this International Technology Strategy? Here are the key takeaways.
The government has been moving to seal tech collaboration deals with a number of international regions. These partnerships include joint research and development (R&D) projects, the reinforcement of allied cybersecurity defences against potential threats, the promotion of digital trade and steps to boost foreign talent contributing to the UK workforce.
International partnerships to varying degrees have already been discussed with Japan, Australia, Ukraine, Singapore and Israel, among others. The International Technology Strategy will double down on these efforts by identifying which partners will be able to complement specific technological goals, be it quantum, AI, or regulatory frameworks for new technologies.
Under the new strategy, UK researchers will be encouraged to participate in exchanges with international partners as well as multi-country research and innovation initiatives, such as the Eureka Network.
Driving tech investment in the UK
To achieve any kind of meaningful growth, the tech industry will need more investment. While the UK has outperformed top European nations such as France and Germany in recent venture capital tech investment, there is still a significant lag behind the US.
And with a funding downturn making VC investment harder to come by, the Department for Business and Trade intends to “target world-leading VCs to set up offices and funds in the UK”. There will be a particular focus on funds focused on the previously outlined priority technologies.
Additionally, the government intends to encourage promising tech firms from home and abroad to list on UK public markets, hoping to avoid future disappointments akin to Arm’s decision to IPO in New York.
The strategy adds that more robust regulation of Big Tech will also play a key role in opening up “opportunities for innovative startups to compete”.
Boosting tech investment in developing countries
The strategy also states that the UK intends to increase investment into the tech capabilities of foreign nations as a way of providing an alternative to relying on “authoritarian regimes who export models of technology that may undermine human rights or limit free speech and open economies”.
To do this, the UK will use the British Infrastructure Investment (BII) institution to provide investment partners with a “pipeline of innovative technologies and pioneering tech-driven businesses”.
The ultimate goal claimed by the strategy is to close the “digital divide”, which will be attempted through the FCDO-DSIT Digital Access Programme (DAP), a policy that will support safe digital connectivity in Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. DAP will look to boost the growth of the startup ecosystem of these nations. It is the hope of the government that it will be able to foster good relations with these developing startup ecosystems and ultimately benefit from their research and talent.
Cybersecurity and economic threats
The International Technology Strategy acknowledged that the development of new technologies will not only provide economic opportunities but also potential security risks. Because of this, the government intends to develop the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI) alongside its allies.
The strategy cited the National Security and Investment Act, which allows the government to intervene in acquisition deals in cases where they may pose a security risk, as an important tool to” protect the UK against threats”.
The legal power was previously used to block the acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab by Nexperia, a Dutch firm owned by a Chinese parent company. Its inclusion
The UK will also pursue collaborations which “go beyond traditional partners” to “increase the resilience of supply chains”.