Prime minister Theresa May has outlined the basis of the UK’s new industrial strategy, throwing her weight behind the country’s science and technology sectors.
Addressing the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) national conference on 21 November, May outlined the “structural challenges” that the strategy would tackle – bringing greater success to the UK’s regional economies, improving productivity levels and ensuring long-term investment for innovative entrepreneurs.
May pledged additional investment for research and development projects worth £2bn each year until 2020. The prime minister stated this would put British industry at “the cutting edge of science and tech.”
A new industrial strategy “Challenge Fund” was laid out by the prime minister to direct part of that investment to “priority technologies” – valuable areas of research such as robotics and biotechnology. May said that this fund would address the UK’s “historic weakness” of turning promising technology research into commercial success.
She added that Britain needed to do more to tap into the commercial possibilities of the UK’s “world beating universities”, and also to improve the country’s academic performance in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
May also used the speech to announce a new Treasury-led review to “break down the obstacles” between startups and scaleups, securing long-term investment for the country’s most innovative and promising business ideas.
She said that by “backing the innovators, and backing the long-term investors”, the UK would be able to capitalise on the potential of its startups.
It was announced in the speech that the government will review the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) – an organisation that awards technology-based public sector contracts to small enterprises – with the hope of breaking out more innovative UK startups.
May hinted that Britain was ready to borrow the approach to business growth seen in the US, pointing to the value of government procurement in driving innovation.
“Many of the technologies in your smartphone, from touchscreens to voice recognition, were originally commissioned, not by Apple or Microsoft, but by the US government,” she told the conference.
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