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Autumn Statement 2016: UK tech entrepreneurs respond to govt plans to boost sector

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The chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond has announced plans to invest more than £1bn in the UK’s digital infrastructure.

During his delivery of this year’s Autumn Statement, Hammond said he wanted the UK to become a world leader in tech and innovation and explained the government would be working to spur the adoption of 5G networks across the country.

William Newton, EMEA director at WiredScore, welcomed the news but said there was still a long way to go in terms of adoption, as some parts of the country were still to benefit from ultrafast or superfast connections.

2016: A year in UK tech

“With its new targets for full-fibre broadband, the government is setting goals that will truly future-proof the UK’s connectivity infrastructure – rather than settling for part-fibre investments that will not meet the digital needs of businesses and consumers in five years and beyond,” said Newton.

Similarly, Robin Kent, director of European operations telecoms network infrastructure provider at Adax, applauded the chancellor’s decision but highlighted the need for caution.

“There is a lot of talk about 5G being the next thing in the telco world. However, it is important to be cautious. We are still seeing issues with current 3G and 4G networks, so the move to 5G isn’t necessarily going to be as smooth as some might think,” he added.

Providing a faster connection for businesses in the UK would also prove beneficial in the long-term as smart cities will eventually lead to more data generation, said Marcus Jewell, VP EMA at Brocade.

Transport

Alongside plans to spend over a £1bn on transforming the UK’s digital infrastructure, Hammond confirmed the government would also be investing £390m in autonomous cars and low-emission vehicles.

“Reliable transport networks are essential for growth and productivity,” said Hammond.

As part of his proposals to strengthen the UK’s transport network, Hammond also announced the government would be investing £450m to trial digital signalling on railways.

Being well-connected following Brexit, Chris Baker, MD of UK Enterprise at Concur said, would be key for the country’s businesses and their future.

“It’s encouraging to hear the chancellor is prioritising high-value investment in infrastructure and investing in the modernisation of the railway. The economy will benefit from confirming big infrastructure projects – much like Crossrail has done in the past. This has huge impacts across the country due to the complex supply chains needed to complete projects of this scale,” he added.

R&D investment

With the UK’s productivity gap widening and the country lagging behind the US, Germany, France and Italy, Hammond said he was keen to ensure British workers obtained fairer pay and working hours were more aligned with those of their counterparts elsewhere.

In order to combat this, the chancellor announced the National Productivity Investment Fund, a £23bn initiative to be invested over the next five years to boost R&D in the UK.

“We don’t invest enough in research, tech and innovation,” said Hammond, commenting on his desire to ensure that the next generation of innovation was produced and kept in the UK.

Matt Clifford MBE, co-founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First, spoke about the government’s intent to support R&D in robotics and biotechnology – announced by PM Theresa May earlier this week – and was optimistic that the Autumn Statement provided good news for the UK’s tech industry as a whole.

“By taking this opportunity to prove its commitment to small technology businesses, the new administration is putting measures in place to take advantage of the ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity for Britain to cement its role as a leader in tech innovation.

“A position further underlined with news of the further cuts in corporation tax and tax free personal allowance – moves that will not only encourage the thriving companies being created in the UK to stay here, creating jobs and wealth in the process, but one that can help them flourish by freeing up much-needed capital for innovation and growth,” concluded Clifford.

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