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Government Promises To Support UK Tech With £4.7bn R&D Fund

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Theresa May outlines plans to support smart energy, robotics, IoT, 5G and biotech with new fund for post-Brexit tech

The government will allocate £4.7 billion in funding for the research and development (R&D) of future technologies such as smart energy, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G networks as a part of a wider industrial strategy for the UK as it starts to depart the European Union (EU).

Prime Minister Theresa May said the plan would create jobs, improve salaries and improve the economy across all parts of the UK – not just London and the South East.

Other areas of focus include digital and STEM education, business support, clean energy and digital infrastructure. The government also wants to become leaders in areas like electric vehicles, biotech and quantum tech.

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The tech sector could be one of several to receive ‘sector deals’. These will include tailored support, fewer regulatory barriers and assistance to boost exports.

More details will be disclosed in a government green paper.

“The Modern Industrial Strategy will back Britain for the long term: creating the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and backing them to invest in the long-term future of our country,” said May.

“It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, not just stepping back but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success.”

The government has placed technology at the centre of it’s post-Brexit economic plans and has been eager to publicise investments made in the UK by major tech firms in the past few months. In November, Chancellor Phillip Hammond promised to nurture conditions for innovation and investment and spoke of the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI.

But Westminster’s level of support for the industry has been questioned in recent times, most notably during CES in Las Vegas, where it was labelled “embarrassing.”

However manufacturing industry bodies and the federation of small businesses (FSB) welcomed May’s plans, as did industry body techUK.

“In today’s economy, the tech sector is driving innovation and boosting productivity across all industries,” said Antony Walker, deputy CEO of techUK. “In tomorrow’s economy, every sector will be a tech sector. That is why the Government is spot on to place investment in tech at the heart of its modern Industrial Strategy.

“The recognition that Industrial Strategy is a process rather than a rigid, one off announcement that lacks the flexibility for meaningful policymaking also underlines the Government’s modern approach – a collaborative and iterative Industrial Strategy must lie at the heart of a truly Global Britain.”

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