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Smaller tech firms to gain greater government support

The Prime Minister Teresa May has pledged greater support for UK-based tech firms, particularly through public sector procurement

The idea that the government could use its muscle to make life easier for those small tech firms that are trying to make an impact on the world is something that is not a fresh idea.

The latest to pick it up and run with it is the current Prime Minister Teresa May is also promising to do more to help UK tech firms, particularly start-ups, by involving them much more in the public sector.

Using a speech at the CBI this morning May covered off a range of topics, including hinting at some sort of Brexit transition deal to protect businesses and scrapping the idea that workers could sit on company boards.

Amongst those headline grabbing segments of her speech there were some words designed to encourage those home-grown Uk technology firms that were struggling.

"Government can also step up to help drive innovative procurement, particularly from small businesses – just as the United States does so effectively. There, strategic use of government procurement not only spurs innovation in the public sector, it gives new firms a foot in the door. In fact, many of the technologies in your smartphone, from touchscreens to voice recognition, were originally commissioned, not by Apple or Microsoft, but by the US government," said the Prime Minister.

She said that it would as a result be reviewing its Small Business Research Initiative, "and look at how we can increase its impact and give more innovators their first break".

The review is going to be headed by David Connell, who is based in Cambridge and has a CV that includes spells in technology venture capital specialists and as a researcher looking specifically into small business innovation and government procurement in the US. He will report back year on his findings.

The comments from the PM came as the CBI revealed the findings of its own survey into what was happening with spending around innovation with its survery of UK firms indicating that 70% plan to maintain or increase investment levels.

The CBI numbers reflect the awareness around digital transformation and the need for businesses to keep spending to keep themselves in a competitive position. Although there were some good things about being based here, like some tax incentives to support research, there were still problems with grant funding and encouraging external partnerships.

“The UK will need to work hard to become the front-runner in global innovation, creating a pioneering economic role for itself in the world that drives prosperity in every corner of the UK," said Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general.
“Innovation is the nucleus of future economic and social development, so it’s encouraging that seven out of ten firms will keep up - or even raise – their spending on new technologies and work practices to grow their business," he added "As we prepare to depart the EU, this shows that firms are rolling up their sleeves and looking to make the best of Brexit."

“While the UK has many innovation strengths to build on, businesses are worried that the country is too much of a follower in the global economy, with the lack of access to technical skills a grave concern for ambitious firms," she added.

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