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Podcast: Scaleup powerhouse goals, chasing unicorns and immigration concerns – Tech Secretary Michelle Donelan

Michelle Donelan UKTN Podcast

The UKTN Podcast is back for another series and our first guest is Michelle Donelan, the secretary of state for science, technology and innovation. During the show, the tech secretary discusses the government’s plan to make the UK a “scaleup powerhouse” and provides more detail on some of the support measures involved, such as a scaleup forum and support scheme.

It follows a speech last week in which Donelan outlined the government’s tech policy goals for 2024. Scaleups are at the centre of her department’s first “policy sprint” of the year and Donelan shares further details on some of the measures underpinning a goal to make the UK home to half of all European tech unicorns by 2030.

But are unicorns – startups valued at $1bn or more – the best metric to aim for, given? Donelan says the UK “should be aspirational” and that “we want to get these big companies to continue to grow and location in the UK”, alongside smaller but perhaps more sustainable scaleups.

Beyond the government’s scaleup goals, Donelan answers questions about tech regulation, closer ties with Europe, “wokeism” in research groups and immigration policy.

When asked if the UK’s immigration policy changes are harming UK tech growth, Donelan said: “It’s not good enough for us to just rely on the crutch of immigration in the long-term, because we want to be able to ensure that we can feed that industry from the UK.”

Elsewhere, the MP for Chippenham responds to concerns that scrapping parts of HS2 is a blow to regional tech growth, and is asked whether Fujitsu is still a trusted partner of the government in the wake of the Post Office scandal.

Donelan is the UK’s first secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, taking the role after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak created the new department in February 2023.

Her responsibilities include all things UK tech, from skills to regulation to R&D. Her department brought the Online Safety Bill into law and negotiated the UK’s post-Brexit re-entry into the Horizon Europe research programme. Donelan and her department organised the first global summit on AI safety, which brought international leaders and experts to Bletchley Park last November.

Listen to the full episode here, along with all previous episodes of the UKTN Podcast.

The UKTN Podcast is sponsored by HSBC Innovation Banking, which offers flexible banking solutions for startups, scaleups, growth businesses, investors and those working towards IPO.

Throughout the series, the UKTN Podcast will be speaking to some of the key movers and shakers from UK tech. We’ll learn growth strategies from both seasoned and up-and-coming founders, hear market sentiments from investors, and question policymakers on the decisions shaping technology businesses across the country.

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