Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey
announced earlier this week that he plans to release a new strategy document early next year that is designed to help the UK develop one of the world’s most reputable tech sectors. At the time, he invited members of the public to email him ideas for what the document should contain.
Now, less than two days later, former Blackberry executive Gerard Grech has responded with a blog post outlining what he and his team at Tech City UK, the government-funded organisation he is now CEO of, believe Vaizey needs to focus on in order to help the UK compete with other tech hubs around the world.
Grech, who took the Tech City UK helm from internet safety and security minister Joanna Shields, a former exec at Google and Facebook, highlights four key areas where the UK can do better.
“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.”
“Digital businesses still tell us they struggle to access the funds they need to grow. Schemes like SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) and EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) 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) More deep technology companies
“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 DeepMind and Improbable have pioneered our way here. More ideas on how this could be done would be welcomed.”
Anyone else that wants to help inform the UK Digital Strategy document can do so by emailing [email protected] by January 19.