With the General Election just weeks away, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne had to impress in what could potentially be his last Budget announcement. During his speech he made a number of promises to do with tax, benefits, pensions and more, however here at Fluidata we were also interested in his thoughts on how technology will play a part in improving the future of the UK.
For example, the digital divide is becoming an increasingly prominent issue with MPs, which is why Mr Osborne pledged to improve Internet access across the UK in his recent speech. He claimed that under a Conservative government ultrafast broadband would be made more readily available, however he failed to provide a date where he believed this goal would be achieved.
Mr Osborne said: “Supporting long-term investment in the UK’s digital communications infrastructure, including by setting out a new ambition that ultrafast broadband of at least 100Mbps should be available to nearly all UK premises.” Mr Osborne also vocalised his support for broadband suppliers to provide their customers with minimum speeds of 5Mb/s, and added: “The government will also take further action to support the delivery of broadband in rural areas, including looking to raise the Universal Service Obligation – the legal entitlement to a basic service – from dial-up speeds to 5Mbps broadband, and subsidising the costs of installing superfast capable satellite services.”
The Chancellor also managed to latch onto one of the biggest buzzwords in the tech industry right now: “The Internet of Things”. He claimed that the government would help promote the introduction of new technology to the UK including driverless cars and smart cities, both of which could help the economy and environment. The Budget Book said: “[There will be] £100m for research and development into intelligent mobility, which will focus on enhancing the development of driverless car technology and the systems required to implement and adopt the technology, such as telecommunications.
“[There will be] £40m for demonstrator programmes, business incubator space and a research hub to develop applications for Internet of things technologies in healthcare and social care, and smart cities… The government will support a competition to fund a smart cities demonstrator as part of the Internet of things programme to trial and showcase these new technologies.”
However, it’s not just individual consumers that the government aimed to win over in their pre-election speech, as they revealed that millions would also be invested into startup technology companies. In the Budget Book it states: “The government will implement a package of measures to improve the accessibility of R&D tax credits for smaller businesses, including producing new guidance aimed at smaller firms and setting out a roadmap for further improvements over the next two years.
“The government will support the development of innovative businesses across the north through an £11m investment in tech incubators in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. These tech incubators will create thriving local ecosystems by nurturing startups, fostering collaboration, and providing mentoring, learning and business support.”
Schemes that have already proved popular in the technology sector are also being extended under the government’s plan, with the Budget Book stating: “The government will make amendments to the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) to ensure that the UK continues to offer significant and well-targeted support for investment into small and growing companies, in line with new EU rules.”
All in all technology played a huge part in the Chancellor’s Budget speech, and even though the Conservatives may not be in power after the next election we are sure that voters will still be looking for further investment into the UK’s technology sector. Over the next few weeks we will likely see even more politicians discuss their plans for the future of the UK’s technology industries, so make sure you keep an eye on our blog for regular updates.