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TechUK calls on government to seize post-Brexit data opportunities

Ahead of the government’s reply to its late 2021 consultation about proposed post-Brexit reforms to the data protection regime, TechUK has published a paper declaring six data governance principles

TechUK has published a paper ahead of the government’s response to its consultation about reforms to the data protection regime, Data: a new direction, held towards the end of 2021.

In the paper, the IT supplier association has set out six principles for the government to adopt to seize what it calls “post-Brexit opportunities, with a bold approach to data policy”.

Meanwhile its Digital economy monitor, an ongoing survey of TechUK members, recently found that 76% see research and development (R&D) and innovation as either important or very important for their UK operations. But the organisation said its members “cite confusing and unclear rules as holding them back from investing further in the UK”. Almost one-third suggested removing regulatory barriers to innovation and the deployment of new technologies and products (29%), such as through data policy.

Neil Ross, associate director for policy at TechUK, said: “Developing a clearer, more trusted and innovation-enabling data governance system is one of the most obvious opportunities of Brexit.

“In doing so, the UK must find the right balance between upholding citizens’ rights, allowing data to be reused for research and innovation, while also supporting global data flows.

“By putting forward these principles for reform, TechUK believes the UK can strike this balance and unlock the next wave of data-driven innovation. However, the government will need to be bold and embrace these opportunities, otherwise risks only achieving half-hearted changes, and creating extra compliance for UK businesses without seizing any of the benefits for increasing UK R&D and innovation.”

TechUK is calling on the government to take what it calls “a focused approach to supporting R&D and innovation by making reforms to its data protection regime that provide organisations with clear rules and more confidence when pursuing data-driven research projects”.

The six principles identified by TechUK and its members are:

  1. Improving data access for cutting-edge R&D.
  2. Securing strong safeguards for personal data protection and a pro-innovation regulatory environment.
  3. Setting the UK on the right track to unlock the value of data across the economy and society.
  4. Strengthening the UK’s cyber resilience to protect UK data infrastructure.
  5. Enabling the global free flow of data with safeguards.
  6. Taking a firm line against data localisation at home and abroad.

Under the last “principle”, the trade body takes issue with “a concerning shift towards data localisation policies which pose a serious threat to the future of international trade and innovation”, adding: “To be an effective advocate for increased international digital trade cooperation, the UK government must address its own disconnect between its global commitment to push back against this trend, and its policy interventions at home, which have contained provisions that promote data localisation.”

The organisation also said: “The current GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] is an example of regulation that has caused legal uncertainty for businesses seeking to innovate, with some being unable or choosing not to use data to the fullest extent due to a lack of clarity in the law.”

It is also urging the government to pick up the pace with respect to the National Data Strategy by boosting data skills in the population and increasing collaboration between public and private sectors.

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