Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, will deliver his annual Budget to the House of Commons tomorrow, with the technology industry looking for meaningful support to match the government's talk of the sector as a source of long-term economic growth for a struggling economy.
In March last year Osborne unveiled a series of incentives to support the UK’s technology industry, including cutting the tax on small businesses to 20 percent; funding ultra-fast broadband rollouts in the UK’s 10 largest cities; ensuring protection for the £100 million science budget; and opening twenty four enterprise zones across England.
However, what is the UK IT industry expecting this year? Computerworld UK talked to IT managers to find out what those working in the technology sector would find beneficial, with responses calling for support for SMEs, skills and investment in broadband.
Jonathan Pheils, transition and quality assurance manager at P&O Ferries, told us that he would like to see money set aside for companies that are willing to provide jobs for young people interested in developing their technology skills.
“My main request for the IT industry is jobs for young people. Osborne should be doing everything possible to ensure that local talent is nurtured and companies don’t find it more expedient to use cheap labour from abroad, or to outsource,” said Pheils.
“There are a great number of young people, including graduates, which are out of work - this cannot bode well for the future. There should be a major dividend paid to companies that invest in talent.”
Similarly, Adel Al-Shehab, an ex-director of ICT at West Midlands Police and previously CTO at the Audit Commission, who is now working as chief operating officer at Inframon, believes that investing in the next generation of tech-savvy employees is imperative.
“As a business consumer (and as a parent), I would like the government to invest in education. The next generation is the future – we need to consider IT in terms of how it supports business growth and not just as the latest gismo,” said Al-Shehab.
“As a supplier (I started at Inframon two weeks ago) I would like the government to invest in apprenticeship schemes to unlock the talent of young people.”
Pheils’ and Al-Shehab’s idea that the government should set aside money for companies to fund training was also echoed by Robert Marcus, CEO of QuantumWave Capital, a boutique investment bank that specialises in M&A for technology start-ups.
Marcus said that the talent in the UK, if fostered correctly, can rival what has been happening for years in the US in Silicon Valley.
“Amid the continuous gloom and doom of economic uncertainty, we need to see an injection of much needed capital to help trigger technology innovation in addition to corporation taxes for large firms,” said Marcus.
“Further investment and a ring-fenced approach to apprenticeship funding will help cement London’s place as one of the most important tech hubs in the world, where highly educated and determined risk-takers are proving that they can innovate as aggressively and create as ingeniously as their contemporaries in Silicon Valley.”
Since 2010, the coalition government has focused much of its energies on developing a vibrant technology hub in London’s east end – dubbed Tech City. Investment in this area has attracted tech giants, such as Google and Microsoft, as well as encouraged a flurry of hopeful tech-focused start-ups that could provide job support and growth for the UK’s economy in years to come.
Mark Ridley, IT director at recruitement giant Reed Online, told Computerworld UK that Osborne needs to reaffirm this in the Budget tomorrow.
“Britain may have been described as a nation of shopkeepers, but it’s time that we became a nation of tech startups. The UK’s digital economy is thriving, with small businesses and startups in technology hubs like those in London’s ‘Tech City’, Newcastle and Edinburgh leading Europe as destinations for highly motivated young talent that will drive our future success on the world stage,” said Ridley.
“There is an obvious need for continued investment in Technology, Science and Engineering education, but we also need to focus on apprenticeships and internships to develop the skills and mindsets of school leavers.”
He added: “Supporting this with streamlined grants for regional technology hubs and incubator schemes, driving lending to small businesses and re-evaluating cuts in budget for rural broadband access will allow small businesses across the UK to compete on a global scale.”
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