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March 16, 2023

The race for tech is back on after the Spring Budget

Jeremy Hunt's Spring Budget provided some much-needed support for UK tech. But some essentials were missing, says TechUK's policy director.

By Neil Ross

If the technology and science ecosystem was a football game, it would be fair to say that the UK has been absent from the pitch. The hangover of political instability from last year, a damaging decision by the government to cut R&D tax credits and a reversal on providing support to smaller businesses to digitise made many in the sector question the government’s commitment to science and tech.

However, after the creation of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and yesterday’s Spring Budget, the UK is finally back on the pitch – and it’s hungry to compete.

Spring Budget 2023
Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget delivered promising measures for UK tech – though some of the government’s priorities remain questionable. (Photo by Fred Duval/Shutterstock)

It is no secret that the technology sector is one of the main players of the UK economy. The sector already employs more than 1.7 million people and figures from the government suggest a further 678,000 jobs could be created within the industry by 2025, adding an additional £41.5bn to the UK economy.

That is why it was crucial that the budget delivered strong announcements and promises to the sector that has had a knock in confidence over the past few months as the government cut vital support among a string of redundancies. And indeed, it did deliver – to an extent.

The Chancellor’s Budget unveiled a new drive to research, develop and deploy new technologies aimed at turning around the UK’s economic growth, including announcements for a new, long-awaited quantum strategy, investing £900m in new UK computing capabilities, and accepting the recommendations of the Sir Patrick Vallance Review on AI and digital mobility.

Government put most of its players out on the field in the Spring Budget, but some of its best competitors are still on the sidelines. Namely, the industry has long been calling for a UK semiconductor strategy which was still frustratingly absent from the budget, and although the government did review the R&D tax cuts announced in late 2022, the reversal was only partial and will still weigh heavy on SMEs across the country that are trying to innovate.

Overall, this was a promising start for the newly created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), but if we want to progress in the global competition for tech, the sector will need even more. As we now look ahead to the Autumn Budget, techUK will work closely with government and our members to ensure we keep progressing in the race for tech and gain the title of world leader we know we can achieve with the right strategies.

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