Category: Government

Autumn Statement 2022

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said his Autumn Statement needed to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild the UK economy. This was the first fiscal event since March 2022 to be accompanied by a set of OBR Forecasts and took place amidst a challenging climate of high inflation. 

The Chancellor also made bold statements around a need for better translating innovation into companies; and making the UK the ‘world’s next Silicon Valley’ by delivering post-Brexit supply-side reforms which mirror the success of the City of London in the 1980s regulatory ‘Big Bang’. Changes to R&D Tax Credits announced will be legislated for in the Autumn Finance Bill 2022, and the Government will consult on the design of a single scheme ahead of Budget 2023. 

The Government is clear that this will include cloud computing and data as planned, and that R&D Tax Credits are to be considered as part of the total budget envelope for supporting R&D. As Beauhurst noted at the weekend, there is a risk that cuts to R&D tax credits for small companies may inhibit growth and investment at a time when this is badly needed.   

We are also keen to hear further details on the Government’s plan for Investment Zones, which will now include universities as key partners. Ensuring that innovative digital businesses can be part of ensuring their success would surely allow Government to build on the models to drive place-based R&D such as the Innovate UK Launchpads, Innovation Accelerators and Strength in Places Programme. The UK Tech Cluster Group stands ready to advise on developing these proposals to ensure digital businesses across the country can help drive recovery from recession; building on our work to deliver on this at the grassroots with university partners in our communities.    

Katie Gallagher, chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group and MD of Manchester Digital, said: “Despite the impending recession, the tech industry across the UK regions remains strong and vibrant. While it’s encouraging to see the ambition to become the ‘global Silicon Valley’ and a re-commitment to R&D, we know that supply-side regulatory reforms will only go so far and the Government needs to actively invest in programmes that will help.

‘’We desperately wanted to hear more commitments to help both the tech talent pathways to ease the ongoing skills crisis, as well as firm commitments to help early-stage start-ups which are imperative to growing our tech economy.

“We are eager to hear clarification on which part of the previous Northern Powerhouse and HS2 rail commitments will go ahead, as they will help our NW tech businesses recruit and do business. 

“We welcome news around devolution, however, the regions and nations of the UK  need even more freedom to make decisions for their own communities and businesses in order to drive innovation and growth that the UK so sorely needs. 

“A change to how the Apprenticeship Levy works would have helped businesses unlock more funding to upskill existing staff and bring in new talent pipelines. There should be a huge focus on upskilling the UK workforce, as well as developing our talent pathways right from school age.

“Overall our tech and digital industry across the whole of the UK is strong and innovative,  but is being held back by lack of joined-up-thinking around funding in people and skills, as well as ongoing Brexit fallout.”

Ben Shorrock, managing director at techSPARK in Bristol, said:

“It is clear today the UK is in for a rough ride economically; our tech communities right across the UK are the drivers of the innovation that will power us out of this recession. It’s encouraging to see good news like protecting the £20bn annual R&D budget, potentially unlocking capital from insurers and expanding SEIS all of which will support tech growth. However, it’s imperative that the government, when looking at reducing fraud doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and stop our innovative businesses access schemes like R&D tax credits.”

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New Government Digital Skills Council to boost the regions

Despite the current leadership contest within the Government, high inflation and a possible recession, the UK is still in a great place to continue developing the tech industry across the regions. 

There has never been a more critical time to focus on creating more high value jobs and high productivity, or to focus on developing the regional tech eco-systems.

As chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group, I have recently been appointed onto the Government’s Digital Skills Council, along with a number of other ministers, academics, tech organisations and tech entrepreneurs to work together to address current and future needs for digital skills and to develop more digital jobs. 

The council has been set up to: 

  • promote routes into digital careers and opportunities for the labour market to re-skill and up-skill to meet current and future employer needs
  • increase awareness of resources that enable pathways into digital and digitally enabled jobs for workers in non-digital roles
  • promote mechanisms to provide increasingly diverse access to digital roles and digitally enabled roles

A changing society 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses had to undergo speedy digital transformation to keep up with demand and are still seeing increased sales due to ongoing changing consumer habits. 

The future is digital – this has been known for a long-time, but we need to ensure that we have a workforce with the right tech skills to develop the whole of the UK as a global tech powerhouse. The Government has ambitious aims to transform the UK into a digital economy – but there is still an enormous job to do closing the growing tech skills gap, in upskilling the workforce, and developing more tech-focused talent pathways right from early school-age. 

Driving forward the tech agenda 

We are looking forward to working together as a group of tech leaders, ministers and organisations to develop the UK regional tech industry and help it thrive and flourish. Bringing experts together with in-depth knowledge of the regional ecosystem is the best way to develop a strong tech-based future across the whole of the UK. 

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UKTCG’s response to the Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech set out a series of Bills due before Parliament in support of Government’s efforts to underpin recovery from COVID-19 and drive forward the levelling-up agenda. 

This legislative programme accompanies policy direction set out in March’s ‘Build Back Better’ budget and precedes an expected Autumn Spending Review. 

The UK Tech Cluster Group notes Government’s commitment to a lifetime skills guarantee; enabling flexible access to high quality education and training throughout people’s lives; the fastest ever increase in public funding for research and development; and proposed legislation to deliver the Advanced Research & Invention Agency. 

Launching the UK Digital Strategy at our Annual Conference in June last year, Secretary of State Oliver Dowden underlined the critical importance of building a highly-skilled digital workforce across every region of the UK, so that people can shift into the digital or tech sectors or digitise their own businesses; driving growth in both the tech sector and traditional industries in order to adapt, survive and thrive in the recovery.

We wholeheartedly agree that Digital Skills and Collaborative Innovation are vital in harnessing the potential of businesses and communities across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. 

Through our work in connecting and supporting businesses large and small and driving skills provision and innovation in our regional ecosystems, we understand the critical importance of local coordination to ensure Government’s policy objectives deliver a recovery that works for businesses, learners and communities at the very grassroots of UK tech. 

The group looks forward to continuing to work with the Secretary of State and his Officials to ensure we continue to drive Covid recovery and allow technology ecosystems to flourish UK-wide.

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Roundtable 6 – Technology adoption to drive productivity

In our sixth roundtable session as part of the national Recovery Roadmap program, the group discussed how we best support the UK public and higher education sectors to better understand how digital technology can enable increased productivity and be equipped with the trial solutions and knowledge to show the potential return on investment.

Now, we can easily have conversations with anybody at any point across the country, which is really, really good. Although technically we could do that before, there’s been a real culture change and I hope we can take the best things going forward as we reenter the workspace next year. 

Ethan Wroe, Policy Support Officer at Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Watch the roundtable discussion

In the UKTCG’s third roundtable event, a panel of experts explore how digital skills and capabilities will be essential in the new normal enabling the UK’s economic recovery.

Attendees

  1. Ben Shorrock, ​Managing Director TechSPARK, UKTCG Steering Board
  2. Robert Walker​, Strategic Project Manager, Sheffield City Council
  3. Jennifer Wells​, Knowledge Exchange Manager, University of Brighton
  4. Emma Woodcock​, Chief Information Officer, Yorkshire St John University
  5. Andrew Henley​, Co-I and Wales lead ESRC The Productivity Institute, Co-I ESRC Productivity Insights Network & Professor of Entrepreneurship and Economics at Cardiff University
  6. Andy Salmon​, Vice Principal, Bath Spa University
  7. James Bedford​, Digital Cluster Development Manager, Science & Technology Council
  8. Mark Lockett​, Sales Director, TechnologyOne
  9. Michael Veasey​, Economic Development Consultant, Essex County Council
  10. Kate de Vries​, Economic Development Officer, Norfolk County Council

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Roundtable 5 – COVID Learnings: UK Public Sector

In our fifth roundtable session as part of the national Recovery Roadmap program, the group discussed what their experience of the coronavirus outbreak can tell us about the future role, priorities and shape of public services. The session focussed on four key areas: the integration of services; inequalities in access and outcome; the relationship between local and national services; and the role of civil society—the private sector, charities, volunteers and community groups—during coronavirus.

One thing I’ve noticed is it’s much harder to produce serendipity in innovation. A lot of our projects start from bumping into someone on the way to the train station or similar. We’re lucky living and working in Oxford.  Without those accidental moments it’s become harder and we have to work on it much more. 

Llewelyn Morgan, Head of Innovation, Oxfordshire County Council

Watch the roundtable discussion

In the UKTCG’s third roundtable event, a panel of experts explore how digital skills and capabilities will be essential in the new normal enabling the UK’s economic recovery.

  1. Ben Shorrock, UK Tech Cluster Group Director
  2. Ian Owen, General Manager Public Sector, TechnologyOne 
  3. Claire Main, Economic Development Officer, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council
  4. Rachel Burdis, Inward Investment Manager, Invest North East England 
  5. Sarah Talbot, Head of Innovation, Swindon Borough Council 
  6. David Henderson, Head of Transformation, Hargreaves Lansdown 
  7. Llewelyn Morgan, Head of Innovation, Oxfordshire County Council 
  8. Declan Murphy, Economic Development Projects Officer, Bristol City Council 
  9.  Ethan Wroe, Policy Support Officer at Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

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Roundtable 3 – Digital Technology as an Enabler

Digital skills and capabilities will be essential in the new normal enabling the UK’s economic recovery. However, digital skills are broad, wide ranging and dispersed. COVID-19 gives an opportunity to reflect and change outmoded structures and ensure the workforce has the chance to have the right skills at the right time through a robust data-driven approach.

Something that we’re touching on is also the impact of having a diverse group with different backgrounds and different experiences. Having a diverse group leads to the most fruitful economy, collaborations and creativity. It brings new ideas to the table. And it’s something that I think we really need to be striving towards as we respond to this crisis.

Georgina Phillipson, Enterprise Support Coordinator, Oxford Brookes University

Watch the roundtable discussion

In the UKTCG’s third roundtable event, a panel of experts explore how digital skills and capabilities will be essential in the new normal enabling the UK’s economic recovery.

Panel speakers

  1. Ben Shorrock, MD TechSPARK, Director UK Tech Cluster Group
  2. Katie Gallagher, Managing Director, Manchester Digital, UKTCG Steering Board
  3. Johnathan Williamson, Director, TechnologyOne
  4. Andy Salmon, PVC, Bath Spa University
  5. Diane Milne, Senior Funding Officer, Dundee City Council
  6. Alastair Irons, Dean of Computing, University of Sunderland
  7. Ben Atha, CEO, The Developer Academy
  8. Michelle Gordon, Corporate Manager, Economy & Business, Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Councils
  9. Mick Westman, Founder at Digital Innovators Ltd & Vice President at the Solihull Chamber of Commerce
  10. Georgina Phillipson, Enterprise Support Coordinator, Oxford Brookes University
  11. Rob Passmore, North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

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Roundtable 2 – Building New Forms of Collaboration

Connecting start ups and large organisations is nothing new – for many years it has been recognised as something that can be a great way to drive diverse new ideas, projects and ways of thinking. But what are the key facets that make for successful collaboration?

The value of collaboration

Connecting start ups and large organisations is nothing new – for many years it has been recognised as something that can be a great way to drive diverse new ideas, projects and ways of thinking. But what are the key facets that make for successful collaboration?

One size doesn’t fit all

Building successful relationships with organisations is  not something that can be established through the same approach every time. Different organisations and start ups have varied needs, cultures and ways of working, which means successful collaboration requires a level of tailoring to achieve the best results.

Each larger organisation has its own culture, needs, and ways of doing things. And, of course, the SME community, is not a generic community. So, inevitably, you have to bespoke relationships if you want to see something that works.

Nick Sturge, MBE, Adviser – Cyber Central, Cheltenham Borough Council

Watch the roundtable discussion

In the UKTCG’s second roundtable event, speakers with experience in everything from corporate transformation, to world- class accelerators and bleeding-edge start ups discuss practical ways to build systems that allow companies to work together and how COVID-19 has changed their approach.

Panel speakers

  1. Ben Shorrock, Managing Director TechSPARK, UKTCG Steering Board
  2. Mark John, Founder, TramShed Tech, UKTCG Steering Board
  3. Nick Gibson, Industry Director – Education, TechnologyOne
  4. David Henderson, Head of Transformation, Hargreaves Lansdown
  5. Nick Sturge, Adviser – Cyber Central, Cheltenham Borough Council
  6. Penny Day, Innovation Specialist, Sunderland Software City
  7. Matt Cooling, Head of Innovation, Manchester Science Park

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Roundtable 1 – Building Technology Test Beds Across the UK

Testbeds have traditionally been important in driving innovation and allow for risk mitigation in developing new technologies and products. They also serve as a useful connector between corporate, public sector, university and innovative SME organisations.

However, there have been challenges with testbeds in the past. They can suffer from a lack of clear objectives, or unstable funding which can result in ‘Orphaned’ testbeds. To add value they are going to have to develop and adapt to support the tech and digital sector in facing the unique challenges presented by Brexit and COVID-19.

We want to see new, federated testbeds connected through industry verticals within a common infrastructure.

Paul Wilson, Founder, UK5G

Watch the roundtable discussion

In the UKTCG’s first roundtable event, a panel of experts explore how giving tech businesses more opportunities to test, trial and showcase their ideas will provide a gateway to help the public and higher education sector innovate quicker.

Panel speakers

  1. Ben Shorrock, MD TechSPARK, Director UK Tech Cluster Group
  2. David Dunn, CEO Sunderland Software City, Chair UK Tech Cluster Group
  3. Vish Mathur, Global Head of Engagement, Telecoms Infra Project
  4. Nick Sturge MBE, Adviser to Cyber Central, Cheltenham Borough Council
  5. Paul Willson, Co- Founder, UK5G
  6. Martin Reid, CEO, Engine Shed
  7. Anwen Robinson, TechnologyOne

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Accelerating Regional Recovery

As a collective group of individual organisations, the UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) assembled over a year ago to connect, share and grow the communities we serve. While we regularly meet to discuss regional technology issues and share opportunities, the impact of COVID-19 on the UK tech sector has seen us work even more closely together. As the established voice of grassroots tech, we are prioritising efforts to accelerate the rate of regional recovery following widespread economic disruption caused by the pandemic.  

An independent voice 

The UKTCG represents geographical clusters of technology and digital businesses across the UK. Independent from government and self-financing, our member organisations include the entire spectrum of businesses that make up the UK’s tech economy – not just the big players. Despite the prominence of a few large corporations and so called “unicorns”, the UK’s tech economy is in fact largely skewed towards small businesses. This ecosystem naturally revolves around local clusters, usually with one or more universities involved as well. These regional ecosystems need to be understood and nurtured at a regional level.  

UKTCG’s member organisations are focused on the entirety of their local tech ecosystems, not just start-ups, scale-ups or specific vertical sectors. We support regional economic growth in both the tech sector and the wider economy. 

The organisations that make up the UKTCG are all firmly rooted in their communities and are uniquely placed to provide in-depth, granular local and regional intelligence in a way that is impossible (or very time consuming and expensive) to do at a national level. 

The UKTCG member organisations are all run by people who have years of experience of working within their local tech economy – we understand the economic and political landscape of our regions and in turn we are extremely well connected and are trusted as intermediaries. 

The group has grown out of a natural tendency of the existing regional cluster organisations to collaborate and share information and resources. Together, our robust and trusted network has an extensive reach across the UK which we believe can be harnessed to accelerate ecosystem recovery following the disruption caused by COVID-19.  

Regional intelligence and regional response 

Since early March the group has been gathering intelligence in our respective regions to understand how both companies and our regional ecosystems have been affected by COVID-19. As well as consulting with government on how to strategically combat sector pain points at large, we have been working at a grassroots level day in, day out to provide companies with immediate relief to individual problems.  

We are uniquely placed to best solve the challenges the sector faces at regional level, given our unrivalled local knowledge, current business support activity and connections across regional ecosystems.  

We therefore hope we can work with the government as a key delivery partner to quickly bring relief to our UK regions. Only by prioritising regional recovery will we see our much-coveted tech sector bounce back at large from the pandemic.  

The UK Tech Cluster Group is in a unique position to provide the voice of the industry at a truly national level and to advise the Government on providing the right support, at the right time to our industry to both survive and thrive moving forward.  

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How has your tech business been impacted by events in 2020?

Share your insights in the national Digital Skills Audit

The UK Tech Cluster Group is undertaking a national Digital Skills Audit in partnership with the Institute of Coding to understand the effect of the pandemic on the technology sector and employment across the regions of the UK. We are looking for businesses and employees to fill in the survey and share their insights and views. If you are an employer or work in a technology business, please help us to understand what is happening on the ground in your business and how we can support you over the next few years.

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