I’m really pleased to read yesterday’s blog from Ed Vaizey, the Digital Economy Minister, which sets out a challenge for all of us to shape the Government’s Digital Strategy for the next 5 years.
Most of all, it’s encouraging that the UK Government continues to be bold in supporting an industry that accounts for around 10% of the UK’s GDP.
Ed Vaizey rightly focuses on infrastructure and Government’s own services – both crucial to our digital future.
Here at Tech City UK, we’re already gathering views from the digital community about where the Government should focus.
We held several roundtables before Christmas to help us with this. Here are some of the themes we picked up:
(1) Ed rightly highlights the importance of access to the right digital skills.
Britain needs a hotbed of home-grown digital talent. Introducing coding to the national curriculum will help tomorrow’s workforce. Many in the tech world also feel that robotic classes would enhance this, given the increasing importance of hardware in the digital industries. In the meantime, we need Government to drive greater collaboration between colleges and business, so that students can graduate as quickly as possible into digital businesses.
As the world goes increasingly digital, it’s also crucial to encourage people of all ages to learn the latest tech skills and even switch career paths where appropriate. Soon, almost everyone in the UK’s workforce will need to be digitally trained to a certain level just to do their job.
Finally, to maintain our world-class tech sector, the UK needs access to top-class global digital talent. The new Tech Nation Visa Scheme shows this Government recognises how important this is. We would welcome a further demonstration of that ambition, through supporting existing targeted visa routes to attract digital talent.
(2) Digital businesses still tell us they struggle to access the funds they need to grow. Schemes like SEIS and EIS at the early stage are helpful. But helping small companies navigate the range of funding routes available, and educating investors about the growth potential of digital investments across the UK would balance overall UK tech investment. The need for more growth capital for later stage businesses was also raised.
(3) Government Procurement: Small companies say access to government contracts has improved, but we know that businesses (and government) are not yet reaping the full benefits of procurement reform. Government officials must be bolder in how contracts are formulated, recognising the balance that small companies need to strike between risk and reward. We encourage Government to involve small businesses in educating and supporting civil servants to translate good intentions into procurement practice.
(4) Deep Technology businesses: As data becomes the fuel of the digital economy, the UK should do all it can to foster the growth of more ‘deep technology’ companies, specialising in data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Companies such as UK-based Deep Mind and Improbable have pioneered our way here. More ideas on how this could be done would be welcomed.
We have already shared these ideas with Ed and his team and we’re are sure there’s more. Please get involved, especially if you didn’t have the chance to participate in one of our roundtables.
The stakes are high. We need a big collective mind, unafraid to imagine. You have until January 19th 2016 to submit your thoughts to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s seize the opportunity to shape the agenda. Contribute to the debate at #UKDigiStrategy.
In the meantime, Happy New Year!
Gerard Grech (CEO) & Tech City UK Team