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What the 2017 budget means for the tech industry

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UK Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his budget this lunch time including several points of interest to the technology world. The UK currently lags behind other countries in the world, particularly those in the far-east.

Boosting mobiles speeds with the development of a 5G network was included as was funding to make the UK a leader in artificial intelligence.

Driverless cars are another area to receive funding with the chancellor hoping to see driverless cars hit the UK’s roads with the next four years.

The number of trained computer science teachers will be tripled to 12,000 as part of a pledge to boost digital skills.

Tech spending at a glance

  • £75m investment in artificial intelligence
  • £160m investment in the 5g mobile network
  • £100m to train an extra 8,000 computer science teachers
  • £400m investment in charging points for electric cars
  • £100m to boost purchases of clean cars
  • Change in regulations to allow on-road testing of driverless cars

The chancellor hopes these changes will lead to a new tech business being founded every half an hour. There is currently one founded every hour.

Leon Ifayemi, CEO and co-founder, SPCE, a service that beings students and landlords together isn’t sure the budget went far enough to deliver on the promises.

Leon Ifayemi, CEO and co-founder, SPCE
Leon Ifayemi, CEO and co-founder, SPCE

“Hammond hailed the UK for being ‘at the forefront of a technological revolution’. Yet his Budget contained gaps which punched holes in his rhetoric. On the one hand, investment in digital infrastructure, bringing forward Business Rates revisions, the extension of the National Productivity Investment Fund, £2.3 billion investment in R&D, and improving maths and computer science education will all have been welcomed by tech firms – albeit these announcements are all building on the same policies the Government tends to trot out in these fiscal statements.

“Worryingly, his speech contained some policies that may hold back small businesses. One such policy was the promised “crackdown on EIS as tax shelter”, which could result in many “lower risk” firms becoming exempt from EIS investment; potentially overshadowing the positive announcement that the Government will double the EIS limit for knowledge intensive companies, this crackdown is a step in the wrong direction and could hinder the effectiveness of a vital investment scheme.

“Ultimately, in a speech in which he said he wants a new tech business to launch every half an hour, rather than every 60 minutes, Hammond did not go far enough to support the current batch of small tech firm across the UK. There were undoubtedly positive steps forward; but dynamic tech start-ups and scale-ups should have been bolstered by more directed policies to improve access to skills, investment and collaboration in the immediate future.”

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