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UK tech community reacts to Theresa May’s Industrial Strategy proposals

Members of the UK tech community have reacted to proposals made by PM Theresa May outlining how the government will support the country’s technology sector.

The Modern Industrial Strategy, published today, is broken down into 10 strategic pillars, and includes investment in science, research and innovation.

May also outlined the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, part of the £4.7bn initiative announced back in November, which will seek to support innovative technologies including AI, robotics, clean energy tech and 5G wireless internet.

Investing in people

As part of her proposal, the PM announced a commitment of £170m of capital funding to aid the “creation of prestigious new Institutes of Technology” to boost technical education within STEM subjects.

Alison Vincent, CTO at Cisco UK & Ireland, commented on the news: “The Prime Minister’s speech today highlights that the UK is a nation that is not afraid to evolve, is focused on the digitisation of infrastructure and committed to investing in the technology and people that will drive innovation now, and into the future.”

May’s proposal, Vincent added, signified a huge step forwarded in the establishment of the UK as a digital powerhouse.

“Going forward, we believe that today’s investment will help to shift perceptions and inspire the younger generation to take part in STEM subjects from an early age.

“Furthermore, by encouraging business and educators to work collaboratively with the government, we can clearly communicate the amazing opportunities these skills can present to young people and embrace digitisation in every region of the UK,” she concluded.

Just the start

The Industrial Strategy Fund was also welcomed by Tudor Aw, head of tech sector at KPMG, who commended the government’s focus on a range of disruptive technologies including clean energy technologies, robotics, AI, space technologies, HealthTech and 5G mobile networks.

“In a post-Brexit era, it is crucial that the UK tech sector is front and centre of the government’s new industrial policy. I am therefore delighted to see that key areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, smart energy and 5G have been identified as areas that will underpin the Government’s approach.

“The hope is that this is just the start and we will see other future disruptive technologies such as nano technology, autonomous vehicles and IoT/“connected everything” get similar focus and funding,” he continued.

Similarly to Vincent, Aw also picked up on the planned investment into tech education, adding: “As has been long recognised, to be successful in tech, we desperately need to upskill our workforce in STEM subjects and to see investment in these skills as well as in science, R&D and innovation is hugely promising.”

Boosting business

The proposed investment in science, research and innovation caught VentureFounders co-founder and MD James Codling’s attention.

“Working closely with businesses looking to scale up, I welcome today’s plan outlined by Theresa May. There has long been a need for the government to support UK businesses and carve out a defined market in which we excel,” he said.

Having seen substantial investor appetite for startups focusing on science, research and innovation, he said he believes the UK is leading the way in these markets.

“This, combined with the plan to drive growth around the whole country, will really give a boost to companies looking to scale outside of London, where previously support and investment has been thin on the ground.

“Rather than having to seek funding from – or even sell to – overseas giants, under the proposed new 10 pillars plan, innovative British companies that are leading the way in new and emerging industries will have the tools and environment that they need to scale up their operations and grow into the leaders of tomorrow,” Codling added.

If implemented successfully, Codling believes the government could potentially succeed in making the country the ‘Global Britain’ Theresa May promised during her Brexit speech last week.

Attractive place for investment

May’s paper also outlined how the 10 strategic pillars reinforce one another, stating “an economy with more innovative startups will require more highly skilled people, more venture capital, and better digital infrastructure.”

By focusing on building a digital infrastructure, William Newton, EMEA director at WiredScore, believes the government will ensure the UK remains an attractive place to do business.

He commented: “The new industrial strategy launching today is another example of how the current government is committed to making digital and future technologies the foundation of the UK economy. Technology has become an increasingly fundamental part of business operations. Therefore sound digital infrastructure is key to the growth of the UK’s digital economy and across all industries.

“Demonstrating that the UK has the necessary infrastructure and digital skills base will also be key to ensuring that the country continues to be seen as an attractive place for investment and to do business. For instance, nearly two in five tech professionals from the Norther Powerhouse think that improved internet connectivity would make Manchester a more attractive city to UK-based tech companies,” he concluded.