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November 21, 2016updated 13 Jan 2017 11:41am

CBI Conference 2016: Disruptive innovation drives the agenda

Reactions to the £2bn in tech research promised by the PM and to cyber security and innovation, the CBI has grasped digital strategy.

By Alexander Sword

Te annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Conference focuses on the biggest opportunities and challenges facing UK businesses, so it is no surprise that technology, disruption and innovation are at the centre of the 2016 event.

From Prime Minister Theresa May to Facebook’s EMEA VP, the speakers addressed all aspects of how rapid advances in the technology world will impact on the future of business. CBR looks at some of the big tech talking points from the event.


1. Investing in innovation

The headliner was the PM Theresa May, who announced increases in government research and development (R&D) spending of £2 billion per year by 2020.

May also announced an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to back priority technologies such as robotics and biotechnology.

In addition, May announced a review of tax incentives in R&D  to boost UK competitiveness.

Paul Drechsler, CBI President, had called on the government in his welcome address to commit to spending 3 percent of GDP on research and development by 2025.

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However, Carolyn Fairbarn, CBI director-general, welcomed May’s “pro-enterprise” speech.

The opposition party Labour went on the offensive, with Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis saying that the proposed investment was “woefully inadequate and risks being too little too late”.

Lewis said that “six wasted years of Tory Government” had led to a long-term productivity problem, adding that the new commitment left the country below the 3 percent GDP target suggested by the OECD and below the average in other countries.

However, the speeches show signs of an emerging cross-party consensus that the Government should be taking an active role in backing UK innovation.

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