UKTCG calls for digital innovation policies to benefit all regions of the UK

The UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) has launched a report outlining how the next
Government can harness the potential of the country’s tech ecosystems to support
businesses and people right across the UK.

Launched at a Parliamentary reception on January 9, hosted by Alex Davies-Jones MP, the
in-depth report sets out four ways in which development of the tech industry can support
social mobility and economic growth.

Katie Gallagher OBE, chair of the UKTCG and managing director of Manchester Digital,
said: “In launching the report and our ‘Four Big Ideas’, we’re calling for Government to
harness the huge potential of technology and the tech industry to unlock the potential in
every region of the UK.

“Across the UK, we have numerous strong and individual tech ecosystems. By creating a
digital and innovation policy which supports business and individuals in each region, we can
support true social mobility and see real opportunity for businesses to grow alongside the
fast-moving innovation within tech.

“In setting out ‘Four Big Ideas’ for the next government, we are ready to help ensure new
technologies unlock the potential of every business, every person, and every place. If we
want our sector and our local communities to go far, then we need to go together.”
Alex Davies-Jones MP said: “Ensuring all people and businesses across the UK can
participate in and benefit from a growing digital economy is vital to our shared success.
“This report from the UK Tech Cluster Group outlines four crucial ways in which Whitehall,
local leadership and industry can better work together to help every place to reach their

“New technologies can support and grow businesses in all corners of our country and offer
opportunities for exciting new careers in every community. But we need to work together to
ensure national policy encourages local innovation. I welcome this report at a crucial
juncture for our economy.”

The in-depth report has identified ‘Four Big Ideas to Harness Tech’s Potential Across the
UK’. They are:

  • A globally competitive tech talent pipeline in every region: ensuring the economy
    delivers opportunity for all and drives social mobility by unlocking tech talent.
  • Driving digital innovation at the foundations: ensuring every business can understand
    and benefit from the opportunities which tech brings.
  • A UK Innovation Policy which gives every place a chance: by embedding digital tech
    at the heart of regional development strategies and incentivising collaboration.
  • Mobilising ecosystems to help businesses to start and grow: by recognising that
    ‘place’ matters, and tech communities can underpin the success of devolution.

Katie added, “We see this moment as a start of a conversation about how good practice
from the grassroots can inform better delivery through a new partnership with Whitehall. We
need to learn the lessons from the last decade of centralised tech policy and delivery
through departmental silos, which has left so much potential untapped. As grassroots tech
leaders, we look forward to working with Parliamentarians to put our plans into action.”

The UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) brings together tech organisations from every region
and nation of the UK to help them thrive.

Download your copy of the report here.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt leaves 11 Downing Street, London, with his ministerial box before, before delivering his Budget at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday March 15, 2023. See PA story POLITICS Budget. Photo credit should

A Budget for tech and digital growth?

The Government has been talking about making the UK a super-charged tech economy for some time now, so the tech industry was eagerly awaiting this Budget (March 15). It’s certainly interesting times for the sector and the UK economy. Last month, we saw the launch of the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and in the last couple of weeks, the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and  rescue of the UK arm by the Government facilitating a private sale to HSBC. 

We’ve highlighted some key announcements and how they affect tech ecosystems across the UK. 


The Chancellor announced ‘Trailblazer’ deals for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands; which includes a single funding settlement and more powers and responsibilities   for post-16 technical education. Other Combined Authorities have also expressed a willingness to take on these powers when available to them. 

Katie Gallagher, chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group, said: “We welcome news around Trailblazer powers for Combined Authorities in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. More local control of resources and responsibilities for skills funding presents a huge opportunity to harness the potential of learners and better align skills and talent to the needs of employers in growing and fast-moving sectors like tech. 

“Given how important tech is to the future of the economy and the potential impact on regional economies, whatever mechanism is used to devolve funding into the regions it must make provision for expert and specialist support from regional tech clusters who understand the maturity of their clusters and where there are gaps that need funded interventions.”

Investment Zones 

The Government committed as expected to funding Investment Zones, an idea which was refined by the current Chancellor at his Autumn Statement and now describes ‘’12 high-potential-knowledge-intensive growth clusters across the UK’’. 

There will be four across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; with eight in England. These areas are all in the North or the Midlands and include: the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the North-East, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Midlands, Teesside, and Liverpool.

Each English Investment Zone ‘’will have access to interventions worth £80m’’ and will be tasked with driving growth of at least one of green industries; digital technologies; life sciences; creative industries and advanced manufacturing. 

Timescales are yet to be finalised, though the Government is keen to agree the first proposals by the summer and all Investment Zone proposals agreed by the end of the financial year, with funding expected to commence from April 2024. 

Katie added, “Today’s announcement around Investment Zones has the potential to better enable collaboration between tech firms, industry and academic partners. We hope the design of these programmes will support innovative SMEs to collaborate and accelerate R&D.”

R&D Tax Credits

In the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced cuts to R&D tax credits used by tech startups. Since then, the industry has called for this to be reversed, as it would have a negative impact on the tech industry, particularly for early-stage and research-heavy startups. A survey by COADEC found that startups expected to lose 30-40% of what they currently receive. 

In his speech, the Chancellor partially reversed the reduction in R&D tax credits by making provision for an enhanced credit for firms spending over 40% on R&D to be able to receive 27% relief. There is a further relief for some firms in Life sciences and creative industries of 34% – 39%. 

Katie added, “The tech industry as a whole was hoping for more than a partial reversal of the previous reduction of R&D tax credits incentives to encourage SME innovation in a difficult economic climate. It’s of vital importance to allow early-stage startups and innovators to flourish and grow their companies.” 

AI and Quantum 

A new AI competition, called ‘The Manchester Prize’, will offer  £1 million for innovation in AI and a National Quantum Strategy is designed to direct £2.5 billion of investments over 10 years with the aim of driving R&D application of Quantum technologies in the UK. 

In conclusion, while it is good to see funding available for place-based initiatives such as Investment Zones and Levelling-Up Partnerships, it is crucial that their design provides a mechanism to crowd-in innovative SMEs who underpin R&D and local growth, and invest in the ecosystem relationships which ensure long-term benefits for businesses and communities. 

Tech Clusters operate as a ‘connective tissue’ within regional ecosystems driving and supporting innovation. This helps to make  ‘Levelling Up’ a reality –  creating opportunities, jobs and growth for people across the UK. It is crucial that devolved funding drives grassroots innovation, and that future fiscal events and central government policy are developed with the growth and development potential of our tech clusters in mind. 

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Meeting Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State to discuss the growth of tech across the UK

The UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) welcomed the Shadow Secretary of State Lucy Powell to Manchester Technology Centre for a meeting on the future of digital tech across the UK. 

Lucy, who is also the MP for Manchester Central, talked about Labour’s upcoming plans for the digital economy. Katie Gallagher, MD of Manchester Digital and chair of the UKTCG, and group members provided insights from their work with businesses about what is needed to unlock the full potential of the tech economy right across the UK.    

Lucy Powell outlined that as the official opposition, the Labour Party are keen to support all parts of the UK and ensure that digital regulation, data and AI policies nationally underpin the work of local and regional leadership and businesses across the UK in delivering a world-leading tech economy which works for all communities. 

Lucy explained, “We are keen to work with the tech industry in all parts of the UK. With proper devolution, local leaders could design their own programmes and decide how funding is allocated without the expense and time of bidding to multiple fundings pots held in Whitehall.” 

Phil Jones, director of innovation at Wired Sussex, said: “The ‘connective tissue’ of our local and regional ecosystems are crucial to driving innovation – both for high productivity businesses, and in the foundational economies. Through our work at the grassroots, we see practical ways to support more people and companies to benefit from the opportunities which the digital economy creates. 

“As a sector, we are keen to help young people really understand the wide variety of career pathways within the industry with huge scope for progression. We also need a more supportive environment for the Angel sector, and a better way to connect early-stage start-ups with Angel investors. All of this would create a wider ‘connective tissue’ to support the growth of the tech industry.”

David Dunn, CEO at Sunderland Software City, agreed, “It’s really important that we reach into schools to help develop the tech pipeline. So we need to create more talent, from school age to ensure we have a growing pathway into the tech industry.” 

Katie outlined some current limitations of the Apprenticeship Levy. “We would like to see the opportunities for smaller employers, who often don’t take on apprentices for fear of the unknown. It would be great to see an awareness campaign as well as some level of reform around how businesses can use the Levy.

“The funding that goes into Business Growth Hubs, for example, is for generic businesses, not specifically tech or startups. Devolution can help the tech sector as local leadership and their business community know where they need specific funding.”

Katie reiterated how important it was to include smaller tech clusters in wider programmes, otherwise they frequently miss out. 

Phil added, “Engaging with partners on the ground who collectively understand industry needs and barriers to growth and inclusion, is crucial to ensuring all parts of the UK are able to share in the success of our tech sector.”

Yiannis Maos, CEO of Birmingham Tech, expanded on this, “We need to support our tech SMEs to reach their potential  because that’s where growth happens. This also creates jobs in our communities and drives innovation across the economy.”

The UK Tech Cluster Group works with Government and Parliamentarians as well as local leadership, industry and partners within our clusters. Members are represented on the Government’s Digital Economy Council and Digital Skills Council and collaborate nationally to support the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth of the UK’s tech ecosystems.

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Whitehall’s new tech department must drive digital innovation across the UK

Following today’s (7/2/23) announcement of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s reorganisation of Whitehall departments, the UK Tech Cluster Group welcomes the creation of the new Department of Science, Innovation and Technology. 

Led by Michelle Donelan, Government plans for the new technology department to ‘drive the innovation that will deliver improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy.’ 

The UK Tech Cluster Group works to support tech businesses and our regional digital ecosystems to thrive. Directly supporting over 6,000 businesses per year with a monthly digital reach of 1.5million impressions, we operate at the local grassroots and in partnerships nationally to deliver for more start-up and scale up businesses; drive the tech skills agenda; enable digital adoption and harness innovation through technology. 

 We look forward to connecting with the Department over the coming weeks, building on our strong relationship with BEIS and DCMS in pursuit of tech excellence and a digital economy in which the whole of the UK can share.  

Katie Gallagher, Chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group, said: 

“It is welcome news that the government has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the tech sector at this critical juncture. Research in 2021 found that the digital sector employs around 1.66 million people: accounting for 4.9% of all jobs. It also contributed £148 billion to the economy – amounting to 7.6% of the UK total.’’

‘’As Managing Director of Manchester Digital, and in working with industry and Government on the Digital Skills Council, I see the critical importance of keeping momentum and ensuring businesses can start, grow, and innovate through technology, while more people are supported to build digital careers’’. 

Ministers across government – including the Secretary of State and Chancellor in their recent Bloomberg speeches – have been clear as to the importance of digital tech to growing the economy.  We look forward to continuing to work with them to help deliver on this agenda by building on success and unlocking potential in all parts of the UK’’

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Minority ethnic tech founders supported by SETsquared Bristol Breakthrough Bursary

Acclaimed technology incubator SETsquared Bristol, led by the University of Bristol, is relaunching its Breakthrough Bursary for the fourth year, continuing its commitment to tech inclusivity. 

The bursary is for UK tech entrepreneurs from a minority ethnic background, providing access to tailored business support at heavily discounted rates. This includes coaching and mentoring, advice clinics, events, skills and training workshops and support to raise investment.

Awardees also benefit from SETsquared’s supportive community and three months free access to desk space in a shared office at Engine Shed.

The initiative is kindly funded by SETsquared Bristol alumni members and the University of Bristol.

Fourteen companies have been recipients of the bursary to date including South West-based startups FluoretiQ, Gritty Talent and LatchAid, and have raised a combined £2.7 million in investment. 

Inclusivity tracking tool Inclued was one of five bursary awardees in 2021. Inclued’s Founder and CEO, Joyann Boyce, who has since been named one of the South-West’s 42 Under 42 by Insider Media and TechSPARK’s Top 50 Rising Star, said:

“My experience of the Breakthrough Bursary has been nothing but positive. As an entrepreneur you often feel like you are out there on your own, but SETsquared Bristol provides a supportive community of founders at all stages. Access to the Entrepreneurs in Residence has been fundamental to mapping out our investment strategy.” 

Another of last year’s bursary recipients, Ali Kazmi Founder of the UK’s first dedicated, ethically compliant investment platform, Ethical Equity, said:

“Being part of SETsquared Bristol via the Breakthrough Bursary has been instrumental to our success. In particular, having access to market/founder insights and SETsquared’s extensive network.” 

 Marty Reid, SETsquared Bristol Director, said:

“Inclusive and sustainable growth is more vital than ever in our current climate. Our ambition is to work towards levelling the playing field for minoritised groups within the tech sector by improving access to support, investment and networks. We look forward to welcoming new awardees with exciting ideas to our community.”

Since SETsquared Bristol launched the Breakthrough Bursary in 2019, companies at the incubator with founders from a minority ethnic background have increased from 14% to 24%. This compares favourably to the UK average where less than 9% of senior tech leaders are from a minority ethnic background. 

Any UK-based entrepreneurs from a minority ethnic background can apply for the Breakthrough Bursary if they are developing a tech startup, or growing an existing company.

Find out more and apply by 7 November 2022.

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Apply for the world-class Sunderland based IoT accelerator programme

Applications are now open for world-class Sunderland based IoT accelerator programme

Sunderland City Council has partnered with global communications network provider, BAI, and leading tech sector support organisation, Sunderland Software City. Together they are launching an exciting new IoT and 5G accelerator programme. This is a unique opportunity for businesses and startups to join a programme that combines leading-edge infrastructure with IoT domain expertise and guidance from internationally renowned organisations.

Sunderland is at the forefront of the UK’s drive to create smart cities and the latest council led initiative is looking for businesses and startups to take part in the 6-week, Sunderland based accelerator. Successful applications will form a 10-team cohort that will each receive up to £10,000 grant funding.

Sandbox environments will be made available for the city wide 5G and LoRaWAN networks where applications can develop, test and deploy their solutions.

The programme will be delivered by a team of experienced practitioners at Sunderland Software City. The accelerator is at no cost to the teams, and unlike many accelerators, no equity will be taken in return for participation, whilst the IP remains in full control of the teams involved.

The teams will take part in a structured series of workshops, mentoring sessions, pitch development and training, and introductions to influential and valuable networking opportunities. The programme culminates in a showcase event to demonstrate their progress. Project themes are broad, but a focus on IoT challenges affecting smart homes, skills and education, and manufacturing will be considered favourably.


ProgrammeSunderland Our Smart City IoT & 5G Accelerator
Dates6 weeks from 12th September 2022
Programme ContactStephen Fenwick

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