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UK government to announce £17.3m boost for artificial intelligence and robotics


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Expect a surprise or two from this year’s Budget


Marc Zao-Sanders co-founder of gives us his predictions ahead of tomorrow’s pre-election budget.

With the general election just round the corner, it seems likely that any surprises from tomorrow’s Budget will be especially steered towards persuading voters.

Let’s hope some of these wins fall to SMEs – given that they support the UK economy at 70% (KPMG 2015).

In the past George Osborne has focused on providing Corporation Tax breaks for large organisations, but as SMEs are now contributing the majority to our economy, it is high time he offers SMEs too a tax break or two.

This will not only provide relief that would aid growth but also enable SMEs to commit more resources to invest in R&D and help improve the sector’s performance.

The government should be doing more to revive confidence in the market and encourage the growth of start-ups; a reduction in business rates, or tax cut, would be a huge win for the small business owner, many of whom find the ever-changing financial compliance and governance regulations of running a business a heavy burden.

From Mr Osborne’s pre-Budget statement, we already know that he will be announcing support for technology clusters and plans to introduce ultra-fast broadband.

This is welcome news – a national survey by TalkTalk found 90% of SMEs state the quality of broadband connectivity is fundamental to the success of business.  Investment in this connection will be paramount to ensuring Britain can technologically catch up with some of its international rivals.  Improved provision of IT infrastructure will have a significant impact on business efficiency.

While everyone’s eyes will be on the cost of living, closing the skills gap to achieve economic growth should also be a major priority for the government.

Only a highly skilled and motivated workforce can enable UK businesses truly grow, prosper, and compete globally.

However, following a survey recently conducted by 75% of UK employees claim there is not currently a proffered training scheme provided by their workplace and a staggering 60% of respondents admit they need additional workplace skills in order to perform their job.

The lack of training support could be down to business owners struggling to juggle a number of priorities and training up reliably skilled staff to deputise is of vital importance.

The government should do more to encourage organisations in providing soft and hard skills to workers, such as team work and people management.

These core skills contribute a whopping £88bn to the UK economy according to a report from McDonalds.  Following on from the report, the lack of training and investment in these areas would cause a setback to the growth of UK businesses by 2020.

In November 2014 the BBC found that 78% of businesses strongly agreed that training is worthy of investment in order to improve performance and drive growth in the UK economy.

This startling figure should be a wake-up call for Mr Osborne – the government needs to acknowledge and encourage the inexorable move towards a “knowledge economy” – by supplementing UK’s world class university system with an equally strong network of workplace skills for workplace professionals.

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