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July 9, 2015updated 21 Oct 2016 5:54pm

Summer Budget – Where is the missing technology strategy?

UK tech execs raise questions over missing digital service delivery, skills and digital infrastructure investment.

By Sam

EMC, Brightsolid and Comtek have individually criticised yesterday’s Summer Budget for its lack of digital engagement.

Global tech giant EMC pointed to a lack of attention towards digital services, despite a clear focus on NHS savings.

James Norman, UK Public Sector CIO, EMC, said: "We have long been supporters of preserving the NHS, but what this lacks is a call for smarter use of technology and data-driven processes to drive the much needed efficiencies in a struggling government department. Our [an EMC published] report outlined up to £66 billion of savings opportunities per year, but this needs to come from being more focused on capturing and understanding data to deliver more personalised and preventative treatment, aided by technology.

"What came as a surprise, was the lack of focus on delivering digital services and transformative change. The sheer growth in digital citizen services has been astounding, but Government needs to accelerate its efforts to keep up with expectations of the ‘information generation.’ The delivery of smarter and more convenient online services in areas like healthcare, local government and tax, need to be a priority. Today’s announcement of the Next Generation Digital Economy Centres and schemes to bring together businesses, engineers and scientists to drive the commercialisation of technology, will lay the groundwork, but Government needs to invest more to support the development of online and digital services.

Without infrastructure benefits will be limitted

Richard Higgs, CEO of brightsolid, a private cloud provider that owns and operates data centres in the North East of Scotland, said: "Missing from yesterday’s budget was technology and, more importantly, the infrastructure required to help the UK get online. While the Chancellor’s fuller policy paper gives a nod to digital, with investment in Next Generation Digital Economy Centres, without the right infrastructure in place the benefit will be limited. We congratulate the cities that have gained centres for the next generation digital economy but wish the government would make a similar commitment to connectivity for the whole of the UK, enabling significant productivity gains for every region; everywhere and everyone (and their devices) – it’s embarrassing that the city of Stockholm has more connectivity than the whole of Scotland put together."

Askar Sheibani, chairman of the Deeside Business Forum and CEO of telecoms repair and support company Comtek (which acquired a Silicon Valley based telecoms equipment manufacturer Sorrento Networks in 2014), said: "A double edged sword, sharper on the negative than the positive side, is what George Osborne has offered to technology businesses today. Technology companies in particular are set to suffer from the Chancellor’s vague promises around skills and innovation.

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"Technology is a fundamental, high growth area for the UK economy, yet it was almost completely overlooked in the UK Summer Budget. This industry is suffering from a potentially critical skills gap, and a generic apprenticeship levy will certainly not balance the labour market. What’s more, as students are hit by the axing of the maintenance grant, this Budget may have done more harm than good for technological innovation in the UK. The technology industry also has some of the highest R&D costs and, although R&D is critical to the progress of the UK economy, this has been essentially ignored by the Chancellor.

"Investment in skills, innovation and infrastructure was needed in the Budget, and none of these have been delivered."

The summer budget statement:
Extract from the budget statement: The government has also created an extensive network of Catapult centres bringing together businesses, scientists and engineers to drive the commercialisation of technology. Innovate UK, working with Research Councils, has now identified further areas where a Catapult might be the right way to ensure the UK is at the forefront of commercialising technologies which offer global opportunities, and will come forward with proposals shortly.

To support innovation throughout the country, the government will invest £23m in 6 Next Generation Digital Economy Centres over 6 sites (London, Swansea, Newcastle, Nottingham, York and Bath), leveraging £22 million of additional funding, and partnering with LEPs, regional councils, and local SMEs. These centres will exploit opportunities across sectors of the digital economy including the creative industries, finance, healthcare and education.

Innovation is key to the UK’s high growth creative industries, where the UK leads the world in areas from cutting-edge visual effects technology to architectural experimental techniques now used globally. Creative industries are worth £76.9 billion of GVA and employ 1.8 million people. The government has introduced new tax reliefs to support the production of high-end television, animation, video games, theatre and children’s television, and expanded the successful film tax relief.

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