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Chancellor highlights tech growth effort in Budget



Philip Hammond announces £500 million investment and measures to promote growth of digital sector

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said the Government is to invest £500 million in initiatives to support the growth of digital technology in the UK.

He made the effort a central feature of his speech on the Autumn Budget yesterday, stating that he wants to see the country take up “a commanding position in a raft of tech and digital industries that will form the backbone of the global economy of the future”.

Among the steps will be the provision of £75 million to take forward recommendations from the recent independent review on artificial intelligence, such as the creation of new AI fellowships and funding for 450 PhD researchers.

Alongside this, the Government is to establish a £10 million Regulators’ Pioneer Fund to help regulators develop new approaches to get products and services to market, and £21 million over four years to expand the Tech City UK initiative to become Tech Nation. This will involve rolling out a dedicated sector programme for leading specialisms such as AI and fintech.

Regional hubs will be created cities including Cambridge, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

There will also be an action plan to unlock new investment in scale-up businesses, a doubling of Enterprise Investment Scheme investment limits for knowledge intensive companies, and the creation of a new National Centre for Computing.

At a grassroots level, the Government plans to invest £30 million in digital skills distance learning courses, and triple the number of computer science teachers for schools to 12,000.

Qualified response

IT industry association techUK responded to the Budget with a qualified welcome. Its deputy chief executive officer, Antony Walker said: “This is definitely a fitness boosting tech Budget, but many will question if it’s enough to prepare the UK for the long uphill road ahead. 

“It sets out a strong package of announcements for tech and innovation. Additional funding for 5G, AI, digital skills, retraining, connectivity on trains, high value infrastructure and transforming cities sends the right signal about the ambition for the UK economy post-Brexit.

“While the chancellor has identified the right priorities, the overall economic forecast and tight spending constraints means that the amount of funding available is small relative to the growth potential of the sector.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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