This year’s Budget, announced yesterday by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, contained several policies that are likely to benefit the UK IT sector – but many in the industry feel the government could have done a lot more for the digital economy.
Highlights included £42m to fund the Alan Turing Institute to research big data analytics; further support for startups and entrepreneurs that could boost the burgeoning tech startup scene; and more cash for apprenticeships.
We round up the response from across the UK IT community:
From TechUK – the UK technology industry trade association
Julian David, CEO of TechUK said: “The 2014 budget has been welcomed by a number of industry sectors for providing specific measures to help investment, exports, business growth and innovation as well as measures to help UK-based businesses lower energy costs and develop the skills base through apprenticeships.
“The digital tech sector also welcomes these measures, especially to help exports as the chancellor showed he is willing to take action to rightly place UK exports at the heart of a UK growth strategy.
“Our work in partnership with UKTI to drive digital tech exports will receive a huge boost by this news. This will significantly help our plan to get 1,000 new tech businesses exporting, and now more profitably than ever before.
“What we need to do now is to execute on the promise of this budget. This means maintaining a regulatory environment which allows new players and existing companies to use data responsibly to deliver solutions to citizens and consumers alike. For example, we need to make as good a case for the use of healthcare data in the whole of the UK as has been done in Scotland.
“The route to growth is down a digital road. We are making progress, but there is a long way to go and important conversations and collaboration between government and the whole of the digital technology industry must continue at pace for the right roads to be taken and for the technology sector in the UK to deliver on this promise of growth.”
From the Confederation of British Industry (CBI):
John Cridland CBI director-general, said: “The government has heeded our call to make the SEIS [Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme] permanent to boost the range of financing options available to growing businesses and spur greater use of equity finance in small firms. The extension of the R&D tax credit will boost early stage, innovative businesses which can often be loss-making in their early years.
“Apprenticeships are a crucial tool in fighting skills shortages and youth unemployment, so this additional support is very welcome – especially for smaller firms wanting to do more. We still need to better demonstrate the benefits of apprenticeships to young people.”
From the Forum of Private Business (FSB):
FSB chief executive Phil Orford said: ““Exporting was a central theme in the Budget as the government continues to encourage a balanced recovery. The package of support announced will help UK businesses looking to export, particularly those which have struggled to secure export finance.
“The SEIS has helped well over 1,000 early stage businesses to date, and we welcome the scheme being made permanent. It is important that further sources of finance are clearly signposted as businesses outgrow the finance available through this scheme. We are interested to see how a government can take the successful R&D scheme and apply it to export, which is where future growth needs to come from.”
From consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC):
Tom Lewis, PwC data analytics partner, said: "The creation of the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science comes at a critical time in the digital revolution. Big data analytics is increasingly on the agenda of business leaders, as it has the potential to help them grow their businesses, manage cost and decrease risk."
From consultancy KPMG:
Alwin Magimay, UK head of digital and analytics at KPMG, said: “Data scientists are what computer programmers were to the UK economy in the 1990s. We as a nation need to industrialise this discipline to ensure that British business can prosper by understanding the potential of the data and turning it into a competitive business advantage.
“The investment of £42m is a powerful signal to businesses, academic institutions and investors to sit up and realise that big data isn’t just a term coined by the technology world but that it presents a real opportunity for UK business to gain value from the abundance of data being created in a digital and connected world.”
From telecoms provider Virgin Media Business:
Duncan Higgins of Virgin Media Business said: “To use Mr Osborne’s words, if we want to ‘outsmart the rest of the world’, we need to be more switched on to the power of digital. And given that Britain’s digital economy will be 10% of GDP by 2016, it's surprising that there was just one mention of the word ‘technology’ and no mention at all of ‘digital’.
“However, the doubling of the business investment allowance could supercharge the economy if digital benefits from that extra spending. Investment in digital doesn’t just boost the IT sector, it boosts Britain – it’s how employees work smarter, entrepreneurs find new markets, teachers give their pupils relevant skills for the future and doctors save more lives by sharing information more efficiently."