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Tech firms back UK in spite of Brexit

Theresa May announces funding to boost development of quantum technologies, as well as a tech competitiveness study, as sector companies pledge to invest further in the country

Prime minister Theresa May has announced more government funding to support the UK technology sector as companies have pledged to invest more than £1.2bn in the UK, despite uncertainty sparked by Brexit.

Opening London Tech Week on 10 June, the PM mentioned investment commitments from 13 technology firms to the UK, which include a £1bn investment by VMware over the next five years and a £12m investment by Mastek in a new digital skills programme for graduates in Leeds.

May then announced £153m government funding, with an additional £205m pledged by the private sector to accelerate the development of quantum technologies, including accelerated drug development from quantum computing.

The PM also announced a study – to be led by the industry and involving firms such as Microsoft – into tech competitiveness. It will seek to identify opportunities and support for digital businesses to ensure the attractiveness of the UK for tech companies.

“British tech is growing over one-and-a-half times faster than the rest of the economy, adding more than one hundred and thirty billion pounds to our economy every year,” May said.

“But if we are going to maintain our position as a global leader, our challenge is how we develop British tech and make it even better. We want this to be the place everyone thinks of and comes to first when they want to develop their world-changing tech ideas,” she added.

In addition, the PM announced an investment of up to £18.5m to support efforts to enhance diversity in artificial intelligence (AI) and data science roles.

“Today, as we sit on the cusp of the next great industrial revolution, we have the opportunity to work together and ensure that the advances we see transform our world for the better, and for the benefit of everyone. Government will back you all the way,” May said.

Commenting on the announcements, TechUK chief executive Julian David said the investment pledges from the private sector are “a vote of confidence in the UK”.

David noted that that PM has “rightly chosen” London Tech Week to announce the government support to quantum technologies and AI skills, and “shows the kind of forward-looking focus that can and should underpin the UK’s digital strategy”.

On the competitiveness study, David said that despite the UK’s current popularity among tech businesses, the country cannot rest on its laurels.

“Just as tech companies must continue to be innovative and imaginative to keep in front of the competition, the government must also make sure the UK’s support for tech firms evolves and keeps pace with other countries vying to be a home for the next tech success stories,” he added.

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