Budget November 2017: On the brink of a technological revolution
Today’s budget speech from Chancellor Philip Hammond clearly presented a theme of productivity, with announcements abound for the technology industry. He talked at length about the challenges of the future, as well as the significant opportunities that lie ahead. “The world is on the brink of a technological revolution that will change the way we work and live,” proclaimed Hammond.
He confirmed that “For the first time in decades, Britain is at the forefront of this technological revolution”, cementing the country’s position in the global economy.
Firstly the National Productivity Investment Fund will be extended for a further year, with £31bn available. There will also be an additional £2.3bn available for research and development, and a further £500m for initiatives for 5G, full fibre broadband and artificial intelligence. Hammond stated that, “a new tech business is founded in Britain every hour” and as such the government knows it needs to invest heavily in the infrastructure to support those, and other businesses.
Recent reports from Barclays Corporate Banking¹ suggest that British manufacturers need to invest in “smart tech” such as AI, IoT and big data. Welsh manufacturers in particular have been encouraged to step up their tech investments. The report, Intelligent manufacturing: an industrial revolution for the digital age, found that, while basic forms of automation, like robotics, have a high rate of adoption (76%), 34% of manufacturers in Wales are yet to invest in technologies like artificial intelligence.
The message is clear. Businesses, and the Government need to invest heavily in technology, and soon. Productivity is key to the successful growth of the UK economy, and in its ability to compete on a global scale, especially post-Brexit.
The current digital skills gap didn’t go unnoticed in this budget. A new National Retraining Scheme for digital skills is welcomed for businesses struggling to recruit skilled workers, and investment in making distance learning more readily available. These initiatives, coupled with a new National Centre for Computing, display a clear message of intent from the government in creating the foundations for a digital present, and future.
¹ Barclays Corporate Banking, Intelligent manufacturing: an industrial revolution for the digital age (2017)