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UK must ’embrace new technologies’ to grow economy, Chancellor says

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak during a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 24, 2022.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak during a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 24, 2022.

The UK must “embrace new technologies” if it wants to succeed in the future, the Chancellor has said at the opening of London Tech Week.

Rishi Sunak said supporting innovation was key to the UK’s economic success and that the country must back “capital, people and ideas”.

The Chancellor was speaking on the first day of London Tech Week, the annual conference celebrating the UK’s tech sector.

Setting out his vision for the industry in the UK, Mr Sunak said: “What really matters for economic success is innovation.

“If we want our country to succeed we need to do what we’ve always done, and embrace new technologies and the people and culture that create them. No serious analysis of our prospects could conclude anything different.

“Because if we get this right, if we back our capital, people and ideas, if we can encourage that incredible spirit that I see everywhere in this country, then we can be confident that Britain stands on the cusp of a new era of innovation and change.”

He said the Government was reforming the UK’s listing rules to make it easier for companies to raise funding and highlighted recently announced visa changes to allow more “high potential” individuals from global top 50 universities into the UK to boost ideas and skills.

The Chancellor was speaking in the wake of new figures which showed that UK tech companies have raised more venture capital funding in the first five months of 2022 than in the whole of 2020.

The £12.4 billion in funding raised so far this year puts the UK second only to the US in terms of start-up investment, and ahead of the likes of China, France and India.

Rishi Sunak
The Chancellor has announced a new Future of Compute Review (Jonathan Brady/PA)

However, it was confirmed on Monday that the UK economy contracted for the second month in a row in April, the first back-to-back fall since Covid struck in 2020.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy, fell by 0.3% in April, with all three main sectors suffering a fall in output for the first time since January 2021.

As part of his plan for embracing innovation, the Chancellor announced a new Future of Compute Review, which will look at the UK’s computing needs and how to develop cost-effective solutions to ensure researchers and industry have access to the high-performance computers needed to power future technologies.

The Chancellor was joined at London Tech Week by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who announced the Government’s newly updated Digital Strategy, a plan to make the UK a tech superpower and boost the economy as a result, of which the Future of Compute Review will be a part.

Ms Dorries said the Strategy would also involve creating a new Digital Skills Council to help “plug the skills gap” in the tech sector, and would also look to “capitalise on the freedoms we now have to set our own standards and regulations” now that the UK has left the EU.