Autumn statement; some good news for the technologies sector

Measures announced today by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in his Autumn statement have been welcomed by the trade body representing Scotland’s technologies industry. But it has called on the Scottish Government to match them with with concrete proposals on skills.

“We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of a National Productivity Investment Fund worth £23bn, including an additional £2 billion per year for R&D in artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies to catalyse the commercialisation of innovative ideas,” said Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS. “Digital technologies are drivers of productivity and economic growth and form strong foundations for the future.

“We were also pleased to hear that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor recognise the link between world-class digital connectivity and increased productivity and will therefore invest £1bn by 2020-21 into broadband and 5G roll out, supported by a 100% business rates relief for new full-fibre infrastructure for 5 years.

“A large proportion of our members are small and medium sized companies and access to growth capital is often difficult for them. The announced £400m of additional investment into venture capital funds is a welcome support for Scottish technology firms looking to scale.

“Given the downgrade of the economic outlook for 2017 and beyond, businesses urgently require help to open up new markets. Doubling the UK Export Finance capacity, as promised by the Chancellor, is a step into the right direction.

“This Autumn statement includes a number of measures that ScotlandIS called for following the EU referendum. However, both the UK and Scottish Governments need to do more to support businesses faced with continued uncertainty and major changes to their operating environment. We need immediate action on digital skills to create a more competitive workforce truly capable of meeting today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

“ScotlandIS urges the Scottish Government to step up with concrete proposals on skills and to match the Chancellor’s investment announcements for digital connectivity, innovation and export support in their December budget.”

The Autumn Statement garnered a mixed response from the UK technology industry: “A match-fit Britain must be a tech-fit Britain, and today the Chancellor gives UK tech a series of welcome announcements. The Chancellor’s focus on backing tech and unleashing a new wave of productivity is exactly the vision needed for an uncertain period ahead,” said Charlotte Holloway, policy director at techUK.

“However, there was a real gap when it came to additional support for boosting the UK’s digital skills. Similarly, there was a missed opportunity to ensure that the benefits of digital are at the heart of the Government’s devolution ambitions. We will be looking to the Government to reconsider these areas in the next Budget.”

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