The 2022 Digital Strategy, does it provide the ambition we need for UK tech?
Published on 13 June the 2022 Digital Strategy provides an update to the last Digital Strategy published in 2017. This welcome update aims to identify the key public policy challenges that face the tech sector while setting out the actions being taken across Government to boost growth and innovation.
The Strategy is clear about the rewards UK tech can deliver. Highlighting that if the UK’s digital ecosystems are given the right support this could add £41.5 billion to the UK economy and create a further 678,000 jobs by 2025, while also pointing to the strategic role technologies such as AI, semiconductors and quantum technologies could have for the UK’s future.
Six essential areas for sustained digital growth:
To achieve this the Strategy identifies six essential areas of action needed to support sustained digital growth:
- Digital Foundations - Rolling out world-class digital infrastructure and a light-touch, pro-growth regulatory regime that protects citizens while encouraging both investment and innovation.
- Ideas and intellectual property (IP) - Stimulating innovation through research and development and growing the UK’s expertise in technologies of the future, including artificial intelligence, semiconductors and quantum computing.
- Skills and talent - Strengthening the tech talent pipeline with digital skills the economy needs at every stage from school to lifelong learning and a comprehensive suite of visas to attract the brightest minds from around the world.
- Financing digital growth - Encouraging UK capital including pension funds to be invested in British scale-ups to support long term growth and leading support for innovation through InnovateUK and the British Business Bank.
- The whole UK: spreading prosperity and levelling up: Helping businesses in every region take up the latest technologies and spread the benefits of a strong digital economy across the country
- Enhancing the UK’s place in the world: Collaborating on international digital trade and tech governance systems centred around freedom and openness.
The six essential areas for sustained digital growth are well structured and identify many of the contemporary issues that confront the sector, while also setting out the detail on immediate action that the Government and its agencies are taking to address these.
On the whole the Strategy is a welcome intervention that provides a key reference point for stakeholders for action being taken across Government as well as including some important new initiatives. These include:
- plans to work with techUK to continue to ensure the UK’s digital regulatory approach is streamlined, coherent and pro-innovation,
- the launch of a revised digital identity and attributes trust Framework,
- the announcement of a new Digital Skills Council and,
- more details on the ‘Future of Compute Review’. An external review that will advise on how the UK can have access to the computing power we will need to lead in future digital innovation and service delivery,
- a new joint UK/US Prize Challenge to accelerate the development of Privacy-Enhancing Technologies (PETs),
- Confirmation of a UK Semiconductor Strategy later in 2022.
Is the Digital Strategy ambitious enough?
However, while this Strategy is welcome it is short-term, with the majority of actions listed already happening or set for completion on or before 2024/25. Should all these deliverables be implemented without delay the Strategy would need to be updated by the end of 2024 to remain relevant.
The Strategy is also missing a longer-term vision or statement of intent about the role that digital technologies could play in tackling the systemic problems that face the UK. For example, the UK’s historically low economic productivity, how to revolutionise our national infrastructure or adapting to the challenges of an ageing population.
This feels like a missed opportunity given the enthusiasm the UK Government has shown toward making the UK a science and technology superpower and the role such a vision or statement of intent would play in sparking debate and discussion about future policy action.
It also would have been welcome to see (as has been done in the Government’s Innovation Strategy), some key targets or metrics identified by which the Government is seeking to judge success across the six essential areas for action.
techUK will continue to work closely with the Government in the delivery of the strategy. To make it a success Government and the industry must work at speed to deliver on the six essential areas for action while also seeking to converge around a longer term vision for the role of the tech sector in the UK.
Responding to the publication of the Digital Strategy, techUK CEO Julian David said:
"Innovation in technology will be essential to deliver the jobs, growth and prosperity the UK needs. techUK welcomes the Digital Strategy which provides an important single vision from Government for the digital economy.
"Delivering this plan will help keep the UK at the vanguard of leading digital economies in an increasingly competitive world for tech. We know what we need to do, now is the time to get on and do it."
Key actions included in the 2022 Digital Strategy:
The Digital Strategy provides a useful Annex of key actions being taken by Government across the six essential areas for sustained digital growth and identifies the Government Department or agency responsible for delivering them.
This useful map for stakeholders is located at the end of the Strategy. A link to the full Digital Strategy can be found here.
Read more analysis from techUK:
Julian David is the CEO of techUK, the leading technology trade association that aims to realise the positive outcomes of what digital technology can achieve through innovation and collaboration, and serves on its board of directors.
Julian led the transformation of techUK from its predecessor Intellect in 2015, putting an increased focus on the growth and jobs the technology industry offers in a global economy. He has since led its impressive expansion driving forward the tech agenda in key areas such as skills, digital ID and public sector transformation, now leading techUK’s 70-strong team and representing over 850 member companies, comprising of global and national champions and more than 500 SMEs. In 2020, techUK joined forces with TechSkills, the employer-led organisation that aims to improve the talent flow of talent into the digital workforce.
Julian represents techUK on a number of external bodies including the Digital Economy Council, the Cyber Growth Partnership and the Department of International Trade’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. He also sits on the Executive Board of DIGITALEUROPE and is a member of the Board of the Health Innovation Network the South London Academic Health Science Network.
Julian has over thirty years of experience in the technology industry. Prior to joining techUK, he had a long career at IBM culminating as Vice President for Small and Medium Business and then Public Sector. After leaving IBM he worked as a consultant helping tech SMEs establish successful operations in the U.K. His personal interests include Football (West Ham and Real Madrid) and Art.
As Associate Director for Policy Neil leads techUK's domestic policy development in the UK. In this role he regularly engages with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and members of the UK’s Parliaments with the aim of supporting government and industry to work together to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop technology companies. Neil also acts as a spokersperson for techUK on UK policy in the media and at Parliamentary Committees.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s input and engagement with Government on the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations, as well as leading on economic policy. He has a background in the UK Parliament and in social research and holds a masters degree in Comparative Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree in International Politics from City, University of London.
- [email protected]
Margherita is Communications Manager at techuk, working across all communications and marketing activities and acting as point of contact for media enquiries.