From the Bletchley Park codebreakers to Tim Berners-Lee and the invention of the World Wide Web, the UK has a rich heritage of technologies that we should be truly proud of. There is no nation on Earth that could stand on a better platform to make the most out of leaving the EU.
This historic moment is the perfect time to not just look back at the innovative record of our great country, but also a chance to look ahead and think about what we want to achieve over the coming years.
Since the country voted to leave in 2016, our tech sector has gone from strength to strength – despite the naysayers. Investment into UK technology companies has more than doubled since the referendum, hitting a record of £9 billion last year – more than any other European country.
Our tech sector is one of our most creative and pioneering industries, and this Conservative government is unashamedly pro-tech, because we believe that, harnessed properly, technology is an immense force for good – it is a major driver of productivity and opportunity.
The power of digital is transforming our economy, our public services, how we learn and connect, the entertainment we enjoy, and the communities we live in – and this pace of change will only intensify in the future.
The Health Secretary has recently set out how technology and AI is vital for the NHS, in order to bring it into the 21st century and humanise a difficult and demanding environment by freeing up medical professionals to do more of the work that they love. This is a government that will seize the opportunities of Brexit by being joined-up in every sense, and not least by building the infrastructure that will mean there is connectivity across our whole country.
The UK is already home to world-leading tech companies. Six UK cities ranked amongst the top 26 cities in the world for raising venture capital in 2019, and we generate more billion-dollar tech businesses than any other country on the continent – this is something to be proud of.
There are more than 2.1 million people working in digital tech jobs and the sector contributes £184 billion to the economy every year. The demand for these roles is growing at pace – almost three times the rate of the financial services sector.
The industry is expanding 2.6 times faster than the rest of the UK economy and this is reflected in job creation: as well as technically focused roles such as software developers and data scientists, tech companies are employing accountants, lawyers and HR managers.
This job growth is not limited to London, and this government will continue to level up opportunity right across the country. Birmingham, for example, saw 75,000 job openings created in its sector in 2018. Newcastle had 30,000 jobs advertised, Sheffield added 26,000 new job openings. But there is always more that we can do to support the sector. The sector is hungry for talent and government must make sure there is a whole pipeline, from schools to post-doctorates.
Indeed, our tech sector is an engine of social mobility, and we have a fantastic and growing network of regional tech clusters – from cyber security in Belfast to video games in Dundee. We have tech powerhouses in Leeds, Oxford, Newcastle and Edinburgh – home to the UK’s largest technology incubator. We will also soon be announcing the winning projects of our £30 million competition to spark a tech revolution in the countryside and help rural Britain seize the opportunities of 5G.
We are rebooting our training system so that public services, businesses and workers have the skills that they need to thrive. We want to train up hundreds of thousands more highly skilled apprentices, in areas like coding. We are creating opportunities for apprentices in big new infrastructure projects – hospitals, schools, transport projects and our multi-billion pound fibre and 5G programme. This year, we will also introduce an entitlement so adults without basic digital skills will have the opportunity to undertake new digital qualifications free of charge.
As we leave the EU and expand our trading relations around the world, we will be driven by the opportunities provided by technology and they will be at the heart of the Government’s trade policy in the years ahead. In the first half of last year alone, the sector attracted $6.7 billion of investment, with more than half of those investments coming from America and Asia. Growing interest from these markets is a cause for optimism about our exciting future, not least as 2019 venture capital investment in the UK leapt by 44%, outstripping the growth in the rate of investment of the two tech superpowers, the US and China.
Post-Brexit opportunities for the tech sector are vast, and we will ensure a thriving economy driven by world-leading technology that benefits everyone. We are clear that we will continue to be unashamedly pro-tech; spreading its benefits more widely; pioneering pro-innovation regulation; protecting safety and security; and preserving a free and open internet. We have much to be optimistic about.
This article is from Bright Blue’s Spring 2020 magazine.
Click here to subscribe to our daily briefing – the best pieces from CapX and across the web.
CapX depends on the generosity of its readers. If you value what we do, please consider making a donation.