Inventing the future – how global Britain can shape our digital future

Written by Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK

Whilst Brexit remains front of mind, an equally important economic and social imperative that cannot wait is how to create a modern and open digital economy that works for everyone in the 2020s.

This will undoubtedly bring many complex challenges, but it also brings opportunities. At the forefront is the chance to shape a truly innovation-led economy where everyone has the opportunity to work.

Those who invent the future, shape the future. Our ability to leverage technology will be critical as we invent this new future for the UK. Austerity alone means that we are forced to think differently and cut costs of public services, so there is no doubt that change will be powered by technology.

The UK already boasts a digital economy that is the envy of many other countries. The digital sector accounts for 16 per cent of UK GVA, 24 per cent of exports and over three million jobs. The UK’s digital economy is creating jobs twice as fast as the rest of the economy and these jobs are spread around the country. In 2016, 68 per cent of digital tech investment was outside London.

The tech industry is the beating heart of the UK economy, creating the high-value, high-skilled jobs that are vital to the success of Global Britain.

As the economy becomes increasingly digitised and we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the UK has the opportunity to build a 21st century economy that must deliver on four fundamental objectives:

  • Boosting the UK’s productivity
  • Harnessing digital transformation to build a smarter state
  • Creating new jobs and a skilled, adaptable workforce
  • Protecting and empowering our country in a digital age.

In our recent manifesto, Inventing the Future, techUK outlined how all this can be achieved by addressing five key priorities:

  • ​​Making Brexit a success for tech
  • Achieving economic renewal through a modern industrial strategy
  • ​​Shaping the smarter state
  • ​​Nurturing the skills for the jobs of the future
  • ​​Creating a safe and secure digital world.

This is no simple undertaking. Industry, policymakers and parliamentarians must come together to solve these complex social and economic issues that require nuanced public policy solutions.

There is no doubt that our country’s brand has suffered reputational damage in recent times. We must start to look outwards not inwards and policy must not be formed in a vacuum.

Technology can unlock solutions to the most pressing policy questions, such as improving healthcare outcomes, reducing emissions and tackling urban congestion.
For example, when automated vehicles are combined with a smart city platform, they can drastically reduce congestion (which is set to cost the UK economy more than £300bn by 2030), improve air quality and increase productivity.

Just as every previous industrial revolution has resulted in better living standards, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the power to radically improve our lives.

It is our inventions that will underpin a truly Global Britain, a magnet for international talent and home to the pioneers of tomorrow. Britain stands ready to invent its new future by creating a modern and open innovation-led economy that works for everyone.

Let’s look outwards not inwards. Let’s be inclusive not exclusive.


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