Tech industry reacts to this month's budget speech

23rd November 2017
Lanna Deamer


Yesterday, in the Chancellor's budget speech, Philip Hammond announced the forecast for the future of Britain with a £500m investment in a range of initiatives from artificial intelligence, to 5G and full fibre broadband.

Matthew Adam, Chief Executive Officer at We Are Digital, commented on the digital aspects of the Autumn Budget 2017.

“With the UK economy now expected to grow by 1.5% in 2017, a downgrade from the 2% forecast made in March, coupled with the challenges of Brexit, the need for the UK to sit at the forefront of digital skills and inclusion is more pressing than ever. We need to be able to grasp, with both hands, the digital opportunities that present themselves to us in order to make us a true global digital force.

“The reality is that we simply cannot afford not to. Independent analysis shows that getting the UK online and understanding how to use digital tools could add between £63-£92bn to UK Plc’s annual GDP. Indeed, it is my belief that economies which focus strongly on getting its citizens online are also more productive.

“The Chancellor has said that a new high tech business is founded in the UK every hour, which he wants to increase to every half hour. It is imperative we support this growth through the announced £500m investment in artificial intelligence, to 5G and full-fibre broadband. However, to bridge the need for the 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people which are required by 2022, we must create and support retraining opportunities across society to make the UK truly digital.

“Technology improvements are causing widespread changes in every market and the public sector should be no exception, especially as it often faces the biggest social problems to solve. I’m glad the government is waking up to the fact that the latest technological advances don’t need to be assigned only to the private sector, but can do a lot of good to the community at large. We know from our direct work with the Home Office that every government and council department is moving its processes online. Whether it’s chatbots to automate processes, or solving how people engage with Universal Credit, there is so much we can do here with “Gov-tech”.

“I therefore welcome the Chancellor’s digital announcements today and consider this budget as not so much a leap in the right digital direction, but more a necessary conservative step.”

Government investment in technology is simply not good enough
This level of investment does not satisfy the need. That’s the verdict of Fergus Caheny, Head of the Technology Group at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy, investment management and tax group, in response to yesterday's Autumn Budget announcement.

In the budget, Hammond announced:

  • £75m for Artificial Intelligence
  • £400m for electric car charge points
  • £100m to boost clean car purchases
  • £160m for next-gen 5G mobile networks across the UK

“These amounts are not enough by comparison to what is really needed.”

“Of course, any amount is welcome as it puts the issues front and centre. However, the aim seems to be to grab headlines, rather than have a material effect. Looking at AI, the UK has a commercial and technical advantage over most countries: the investment levels need to reflect this to ensure and maintain our competitive advantage.”

“When you consider the hundreds of millions that Google annually invests in its Deepmind AI program, the government cannot sensibly think £75m will achieve this aim.”

DRIVEN supports budget measures on autonomous vehicles
The DRIVEN consortium welcomes the support announced in yesterday's (22nd November) Budget by the Chancellor of additional regulatory changes and financial support to aid further development of autonomous vehicles.

Speaking on the announcement, Oxbotica CEO and DRIVEN consortium leader Graeme Smith said: “This support demonstrates that the government continues to be serious about ensuring the UK is an amazing place to develop autonomous vehicle technology. The ground-breaking research being undertaken by us here at Oxbotica and leveraged in our self-driving road trials within DRIVEN would not be possible without funding from central government."

“Following our meeting with the Prime Minister and Chancellor last week, it is good to see the UK technology sector being encouraged to accelerate development of a technology that will undoubtedly change society. Government support here has the potential to be repaid many times over as well, in terms of new, high skilled jobs, enormous export potential, and improved productivity. By announcing these new measures and getting behind the drive towards autonomy, the UK government is showing it is not afraid of what the future holds, and that it wants to see Britain leading us into it.”

Last week, the DRIVEN consortium showcased its technology for the benefit of the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer at Number 10 Downing Street.

Graeme Smith and Professor Paul Newman, Director of the Oxford Robotics Institute (ORI), drove one of the specially modified cars to Downing Street and demonstrated the technology behind it all for Theresa May and Philip Hammond. This included part of the camera and lidar laser array that provides data to enable Selenium, the autonomous software at the heart of the car, to drive the vehicle.

Telecoms industry reactions to autumn budget
Li-Ke Huang, Research & Technology Director from Cobham Wireless commented on the budget below.

“With Brexit looming, it is important that the UK demonstrates its ambitions to develop the communications infrastructure to ensure our digital economy continues to thrive. The £500m technology investment in initiatives such as next-gen 5G networks is a step in the right direction. Building on earlier government funding for UK universities - King’s, Surrey and Bristol - to develop test networks, the UK is now in a strong position to help define a global framework needed to commercialise the new standard. 

“Whilst we can expect China and South Korea to lead the 5G cellular march into and throughout 2018, the UK will continue to excel is one crucial area: R&D. This includes developing the potential 5G air interfaces and enabling the various applications that will rely on the new wireless standard.

"The Chancellor has backed driverless cars as a lucrative use case for 5G, which he ambitiously forecasts will be on our roads by 2021, and tested next year. However, the future success of this and other 5G applications, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), will be dependent on investment in road-testing new networks now.”

John English, Senior Product Manager Service Provider at NETSCOUT also commented on the budget below.

“The announcement to further 5G will undoubtedly be welcomed by businesses and operators across the country, as the UK seeks to keep pace with other countries and strives to launch 5G by 2020. But for the UK to realise its 5G ambitions, it will require significant investment in infrastructure which will need to extend far beyond the initial amounts promised so far.

“However, in the rush to discuss what shape next generation networks will take, the possible businesses cases, and technological opportunities, the practical realities of assuring quality service delivery and securing the network are invariably overlooked. How will the British government know that they have realised the best value with their mobile network investment? How will their businesses and citizens be confident that their communications will be secure and that the privacy is protected? For 5G’s potential’s potential to be fully unlocked, it’s therefore not enough to know how the networks will be launched; we must also know how to manage and assure them once they are.”

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