The UK tech industry is growing 2.5 times faster than the rest of the economy and our nation is a global digital leader. But we must not rest on our laurels. The UK will only retain its position if we invest in people and infrastructure, make Brexit a success and put ethics at the forefront of innovation.
The UK faces a growing digital skills shortage. As the economy digitises further, we urgently need to invest in the domestic talent pipeline to thrive. In the meantime, as we leave the European Union, we must still attract talent from across the globe to remain at the cutting edge of research and innovation.
The government’s ambition of 2.4 percent UK GDP investment in R&D by 2027 signals that Britain intends to do so. At the heart of this ambition is the need for businesses to take advantage of technology. One in five UK businesses still have no online presence, and the value gap between these businesses and those using cutting-edge technologies, like AI, is growing. More must be done to help them understand and deploy tools if we are to solve the UK’s productivity puzzle. This includes ensuring we have world-class digital connectivity, and the government’s recent review helps set the framework for sustained infrastructure investment.
On Brexit, we have seen some progress from government, including its proposals on the free flow of data. The recent white paper also marks a positive starting point for negotiations, particularly when it comes to goods. Yet, for the 81 per cent of tech exports made up of services, there is still a lack of detail. EU market access is vital, and time is running out to reach agreement that works for digital businesses.
There is also an important ongoing debate on digital ethics across industry, academia and government. The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation will help us build the tools, thinking and governance we need to develop responsible tech that works for everyone.
We need to get all this right to capitalise on new opportunities. If we take our previous achievements for granted, we will inevitably fall behind. We must redouble our efforts and build a UK tech-enabled economy that benefits all.