A tech-first budget?

Philip Hammond has today announced the autumn budget, a budget that strongly positions technology at the forefront to many peoples surprise.

In an effort to address the UK’s lacking productivity the government’s Budget has prioritised many tech areas that we as a country are lagging behind in. Many may well welcome this as the UK is already the slowest-growing G7 economy and forecasts show economic prospects worsening, and with the uncertainty of Brexit this is a trying time. The question is: does the budget address the right issues within the tech sector?

Hammond has commented, “This Budget is about much more than Brexit. For the first time in decades Britain is genuinely at the forefront of this technological revolution.

“Not just in our universities and research institutes, but this time in the commercial development labs of our great companies, and on factory floors and business parks across this land. But we must invest to secure that bright future for Britain.”

So, what exactly has the budget pledged to help the UK develop our technological position in the world? We’ve covered it below.

Digital skills funding – 30m

Hammond declared that he wants to double the number of tech startups founded in Britain and as he stated see “one created every half an hour”. To achieve this he has pledged 30m in the budget.

Computer science teacher training – 84m

The UK’s digital skills gap has been a growing concern for a number of years now and Hammond hopes to resolve this with an 84m cash injection. Schools are to be given £600 for every student taking A Level maths. And more resources will be provided to technology teachers.

Graham Hunter, VP of EMEA at CompTIA, said: “It’s welcomed news that 12,000 teachers will receive some long overdue support to help deliver the next generation of tech savvy students and increase the number of people coming into the industry, particularly girls.

“Teachers want to remain relevant and training 12,000 teachers will ensure they can confidently deliver the skills required to support a key growing industry.”

AI – 75m

A Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation hopes to ensure “safe, ethical and ground-breaking” AI creation, with the government estimating GDP growth by 10% with the successful use of the technology.

A £75 million investment will see the government create new AI fellowships, fund 450 PhD researchers and explore the possibility of data trusts that control access to data needed to train AI systems.

5G – 160m

Around £160 million will aid research into 5G, this will aid the National 5G Innovation Network that received £16m funding earlier this year. There are concerns however that this is too little too late as Nick Watson, VP EMEA at Ruckus, states it ‘may take years for 5G to become mainstream, we need a solution now”. His recommendation being Wi-Fi technology.

Self-driverless cars – 400m

Self-driverless cars still seems an alien concept for many but today the Chancellor announced new funds and tax incentives for owners of electric cars to promote a greener future for Britain. The government will invest £400 million to improve charging infrastructure, along with £40 million for battery tech research. Hammond believes that the industry will add £28 billion to the British economy by 2035, creating 27,000 jobs.

 

Overall it’s a promising proposition for the tech sector but is it too little too late? Many fear so but only time will tell. One thing is clear; this is not a budget that oozes confidence over Brexit so tech businesses still remain uncertain of what the future holds which could be a costly mistake.


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