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Jacob Rees-Mogg, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, has hailed technology as key to the UK economy prospering, calling on the government to properly understand the potential of technology to ensure the country continues to be an “economic force”.
“If we don’t get our understanding of information and technology right, we simply will not be the economic force that we have been in the last 200 years,” said Rees-Mogg, adding that technology is the “indispensable ally in progress and the guarantee of prosperity”.
During his keynote speech at the GovTech conference in Westminster today (13 October), Rees-Mogg said technology has the potential to “provide the answers to some of challenges facing us both in business and in government”.
He continued: “We see that with energy and sustainability at the moment. The government has put unprecedented amounts of money into energy bills to help people afford their bills over the winter, but we also need to use our resources so that we apply energy intelligently, and that means using technology.”
Rees-Mogg pointed out that things like smart local energy systems, bringing together electric vehicles, renewable batteries and digital technology will save people money on their energy bills.
“Now, this sounds very dry,” he said. “And a lot of what we’re talking about is dry. Bu it’s so important that you can have technology that means people get the energy, when it’s being produced in excess quantities because of renewables, at a lower cost, that they recognise they shouldn’t be charging their cars between four and seven in the evening. But they may also then have a source of supply the next morning, if there’s not much wind blowing and you have a shortage of energy being produced. So you can make all of this so interactive through the correct use of technology.”
Rees-Mogg said technologies such as fusion, quantum computing, carbon capture, artificial intelligence and genomics are “driving growth and prosperity” in the UK, but that the government does not have “the fount of all knowledge” and needs the expertise of the private sector to realise its potential.
“I rely on your expertise,” he said. “But if we don’t get a big slice of the tech pie, we will not have economic success over the coming decades. That’s where our future lies. It doesn’t lie in low-cost manufacturing – that’s been taken over by other countries. We need to be a high-wage, high-technology, high-enterprise economy.”
In February 2021, the government announced the launch of the UK Advanced Research and Innovation Agency (Aria), which is backed by an £800m public investment, supporting high-risk research that has the potential to make a big impact on society.
Aria is based on models that have proved successful in other countries, in particular the influential US Advanced Research Projects Agency, which played a part in the creation of the internet and GPS.
Rees-Mogg said keeping successful UK tech companies in the UK is key. “I think Aria is going to be a way of getting seed investment into these really exciting ventures and bringing capital from around the globe in to develop a system where if you set up a successful high-tech company, it doesn’t get bought by the Americans after it’s been in the game for a few years. We will have our own market for it, and I think Aria is going to lead the way in doing that.”
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