The EU referendum is a watershed in British history. The UK is now committed to forging a new future outside the European Union and the next Government will be tasked with inventing this new future.
Brexit is a huge challenge but there is another, equally important economic and social imperative that cannot wait – how to create a modern and open digital economy that works for everyone.
The pace of globalisation will only increase over the next five years, so while we navigate Brexit, we have to focus on what kind of economy and society we want for the 2020, and beyond. While this will bring many complex challenges, it also brings opportunities.
At the forefront is the chance to invent a truly innovation-led economy that works for everyone and where everyone has the opportunity to work. Those who invent the future, shape the future.
Invention is in our DNA. As the pioneers of the First Industrial Revolution, Britain became the first industrial economy and the world’s innovation powerhouse. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the UK has the opportunity to build a 21st century economy that can, indeed must, deliver on four fundamental objectives:
- boosting the UK’s productivity;
- harnessing digital transformation to build a smarter state;
- creating new jobs and a new skilled, adaptable workforce; and
- protecting and empowering people in a digital age.
techUK Manifesto – Inventing the Future
It is against this backdrop that techUK has carefully crafted its 2017 manifesto, “Inventing the Future”. The manifesto provides a comprehensive set of policy recommendations that techUK believes will help the next Government achieve this vital transition to a modern and successful Global Britain.
We believe the next Government needs to tackle five main issues in order to realise this ambition. These are:
Making Brexit a Success for Tech
The UK’s tech sector has been the outstanding success of the UK economy over the last decade and will be vital to the UK’s success in a post-Brexit world. The next Government must secure a deal that puts the UK on the best possible footing to thrive outside the EU. This will require a tech-first trade deal; maintaining the cross-border data flows; making the UK a hub for global tech talent; providing confidence, stability and certainty throughout the negotiations; and placing tech at the heart of Global Britain’s new trade relationships.
Achieving Economic Renewal Through a Modern Industrial Strategy
Economic renewal can be delivered through a modern industrial strategy, which provides a long-term and evolutionary framework to build the capacity and capability for a truly innovation-led economy. In order to achieve this, the next Government will need to boost investment in the UK’s R&D; harness the power of tech to solve the UK’s “productivity puzzle”; make the UK the best place to startup and scale a high growth business; create an open and dynamic regulatory framework; and creating the conditions for investment in world class digital and data infrastructure. These will be the successful elements of an economic renewal that create an economy that works for everyone.
Building the Smarter State
The last decade has seen an increased understanding within Government of the importance of driving digital transformation. Digital transformation will be vital to protecting our public services amid rising public sector debt and demands on usage. The Smarter State will place tech at the heart of Government; unlock the next wave of digital transformation in government; develop expertise within the Civil Service; address the barriers to digital innovation in health and social care; and innovate by instinct in the defence supply base.
Nurturing the Skills for the Jobs of the Future
The UK tech sector faces a triple hit on digital skills. Alongside the existing digital skills gap in the UK, significant uncertainty on the access to EU talent, and new restrictions to hiring non-EEA workers introduced in April 2017 risk hindering growth. The dynamism of the sector means tech creates new jobs at nearly three times the rate of the rest of the economy, and demand far outstrips supply. To ensure the UK has the digital skills it needs to thrive, the next Government should equip the future generation with world class digital skills from an early age; create an apprenticeship programme for the future; inspire and support girls and women to work in tech; develop a clear and ambitious policy on the future of work and lifelong learning; and open up to the pioneers and innovators of tomorrow.
Creating a Safe and Secure Digital World
As the world becomes more digital, ensuring safety and security for people, businesses and infrastructure is of critical importance. The May 2017 ransomware attack showed the substantial global cyber threat and the vulnerability of businesses and public services. The UK needs to build on its strong cyber security credentials by investing further in public sector cyber security; protecting end-to-end encryption; and enabling SME investment in cyber security. The UK also needs to be the safest place for people to go online. Young people must be empowered to navigate the online world safely through a new “digital resilience” curriculum and a full, evidence-based review into current best practice should be conducted to underpin a comprehensive online safety strategy.
Our “Condition of Britain” Question
This is a positive vision for Britain’s future. But while optimism is essential, it is not sufficient. The political task that lies ahead for the Government in getting a huge number of policy decisions right, in a very short period of time, cannot be overstated. At the vanguard is the challenge to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the UK and that works for tech. But domestic policymaking must continue to help create the economic foundations for a new vision. This economic renewal must be delivered concurrently with the Brexit negotiations. techUK urges the next Government to consider these ideas closely as they embark on this defining moment in modern British history.
In 1839, the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, concerned at rising inequality among the working class during the Second Industrial Revolution, coined the phrase the “Condition of England Question”. This period saw significant structural changes to the economy which gave rise to numerous policy challenges. Indeed, it was the Second Industrial Revolution that gave rise to our education system as we know it today. This manifesto offers a glimpse at how to answer our “Condition of Britain Question” and create a vibrant, open and inclusive economy that works for everyone.