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Innovation needs to be front and centre of the British economy – Sunak’s spring statement does not go far enough

By Mike Rhodes, CEO of ConsultMyApp

This week, Rishi Sunak unveiled the contents of his Spring Statement in the House of Commons.  Amongst other measures, the chancellor announced that he would cut fuel duty, raise the threshold at which people start paying National Insurance and cut the basic rate of income tax prior to the next general election. 

The highly anticipated Spring Statement was supposed to map the path to a stronger economy for the UK, yet with the UK recovering from its biggest shock in 300 years, the Chancellor’s announcements completely missed the mark.

Whilst Sunak’s pledge to cut taxes on business investment, reform research and development tax credit and increase the employment allowance for small businesses are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough for businesses – especially those within the technology sector.

Innovation needs to be front and centre if the British economy is to build back stronger, and the tech industry can play a crucial role in the country’s economic acceleration. Yet this vital sector appears to have been left out of consideration. 

Unless Sunak makes significant adjustments to invest in the future of the sector, for example, training up the next generation of world-leading App specialists, then innovation and growth may well be stifled.

Even the government’s recent ‘levelling up’ plan to rebuild the UK’s economy and balance out wealth distribution across the UK, does not sufficiently address this issue. Whilst the goal to successfully train over 200,000 people in high-quality skills by 2030 is of course very welcome, the government has failed to acknowledge the digital skills gap altogether. 

From a government that has historically asked its citizens to retrain during the pandemic and has spoken to great lengths about their aspiration to invest in technology and the digital industries, action needs to be taken to bring that rhetoric into reality. 

I would like to see the Government collaborate with the private sector and provide financial support to companies that can invest in training and the development of aspiring tech talent, as well as those with natural technical aptitudes. With such funding from the Government, there is far more incentive for corporations to offer hands-on training in these more specialised digital skills. This will in turn help to bridge the skills gap and improve the lives of people in poorer communities.

Moving forward, the government must also create more concrete plans for attracting foreign talent to fill the huge amount of tech vacancies in the UK. The technology industry is one of the most dynamic in the UK, and as a result, the demand for skilled technology specialists is increasing. Whilst the industry is thriving, over 70 percent of technology employers are currently experiencing skills shortages, so salaries are being driven up. 

Businesses are already grappling with inflationary pressure at levels not seen in twenty years, as well as higher interest payments, soaring fuel and energy costs, so access to talent is crucial. Despite Sunak’s promises to accelerate growth, it is no surprise then that many in the UK’s tech industry are calling for more substantial support and have criticised the Chancellor for delaying additional measures until the Autumn Budget.To thrive and recover from one of the most economically challenging periods in living memory, innovation needs to be front and centre of the British economy, and drastic measures must be taken to drive digital innovation and train up the next generation of tech leaders.