UK to unveil new digital strategy to support tech sector

The UK is preparing to unveil a set of tech-focused policies covering artificial intelligence, quantum computing and digital health this month, as the government tries to bolster London’s start-up scene after Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials in Whitehall are working on proposals to boost Britain’s digital economy, and some policies could be unveiled at London Tech Week, which begins June 13, according to people briefed on the plans.

Downing Street is expected to host a dinner with tech bosses and venture capitalists to encourage investment in the UK.

Business lobby groups have called on the government for a comprehensive digital strategy to boost the tech industry. Last month, the CBI said ministers should ‘unlock digital investment’ and ‘boost business confidence and willingness to invest’ by issuing a strategy.

Some tech bosses say they don’t have easy access to talented workers since Brexit and the introduction of tougher immigration controls, while others worry about the health of the sector following the Covid-19 crisis, even though Chancellor Rishi Sunak provided financial support to start-ups during the pandemic.

Semiconductor policy is also being targeted by the government which last month announced a review of the takeover of Newport Wafer Fab by a Chinese company © Crown copyright/Visit Wales

The Department for Digital, Cultural Media and Sport is to publish a digital strategy that brings together many of the government’s existing technology policies into a single document, according to people familiar with the contents of the 50-page document.

The strategy is expected to say the UK needs to strengthen its position as a global science and technology superpower, with a focus on areas such as AI, quantum computing and next-generation semiconductors.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is preparing to present plans to increase investment in AI. The commercial department meanwhile has been working on proposals to increase quantum computing resources.

A key policy is digital health and the use of data by the NHS. Health Secretary Sajid Javid wants to tackle health inequalities by using data to identify where disparities exist and allocate resources based on that, according to a person briefed on his plans.

Separate government work is underway on a semiconductor policy, as industry fears the UK is losing ground to countries in Asia to design and produce chips.

A promotional photo for London Tech Week

Some policies may be unveiled during London Tech Week, which starts June 13 © London Tech Week

Last month the government announced a review of a Chinese company’s takeover of Newport Wafer Fab, a Welsh manufacturer of silicon wafers used in the production of semiconductors.

The Prime Minister also joined efforts last month to try to persuade chip designer Arm to list in London, even though owner SoftBank is planning an IPO in New York.

The government wants the London Stock Exchange to become the go-to trading platform for tech company IPOs.

Ministers also want to foster a new wave of start-ups by prioritizing their access to growth capital.

Other EU cities are continuing their attempts to woo start-ups. Events similar to London Tech Week are taking place simultaneously in Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Berlin and Barcelona.

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment.

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