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Government boosts technology sector support measures



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Sponsored feature | James Stephen, consultant, BDB Pitmans

James Stephen, BDB Pitmans (50126572)
James Stephen, BDB Pitmans (50126572)

The government is taking further steps to deliver its promised support of the UK technology sector through several new measures.

The first is the launch of Future Fund: Breakthrough, a new £375million UK-wide scheme which will see the government invest, alongside private investors, in high-growth, innovative firms. The initiative is focussed on R&D-intensive companies aiming to raise at least £30million. Applicant companies must be UK-based with significant UK operations.

The government hopes the fund support will accelerate the deployment of breakthrough technologies which can transform major industries, develop new medicines, and support the transition to a net zero economy.

The second government initiative has been to establish a new Digital Markets Unit (DMU) within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to oversee the UK’s digital markets regulatory regime.

The government aims to:

  • promote greater competition in digital markets;
  • protect consumers and businesses from unfair practices such as inflated prices and less consumer choice; and
  • ensure that smaller firms and new entrants to these markets can compete fairly, thereby supporting innovation.

It is proposed that firms which currently dominate the digital market should be made subject to a new code of conduct, with the DMU given enforcement powers including the ability to impose financial penalties for non-compliance.

Legislation is required to provide the DMU with appropriate powers, and the necessary legislation is anticipated later this year or early in 2022. In the meantime, the DMU is operating in a shadow form without statutory powers but following terms of reference set by the government.

The third government step is to try to ensure that the visa system recognises the needs of the technology sector. Post-Brexit, the end of free movement of labour between the UK and the EU has contributed to a skills shortage in the UK technology sector. In response, the government has introduced a new Innovator Visa intended to allow talented entrepreneurs to live and work in this country.

Another step is the proposed creation of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA). ARIA’s stated aim is to fund high-risk, high-reward research, driving disruptive innovation to address complex societal challenges and filling a gap in the UK research system. The ARIA Bill (proposed legislation) is currently being considered by Parliament.

James Stephen is a consultant in BDB Pitmans’ corporate team in Cambridge. Contact jamesstephen@bdbpitmans.com or visit bdbpitmans.com.

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