The UK has been one of the biggest technology hubs boasting thousands of startups that fuels sectors such as digital, healthcare, transport, financial services, manufacturing, and communications. Such has been its impact that it’s safe to say that after the ‘Industrial Revolution’, the ‘Technology Revolution’ has been one of the prominent revolutionary developments in the country.
The Covid-19 pandemic has given an entirely new meaning to technological innovation with the work from home culture setting in, and several technological changes have happened around the world. Consumer patterns and demands have been changing, and signs that digital will be the new normal are imminent. Hence, there is greater adoption of cloud-enabled technologies, AI, online education, online healthcare facilities etc.
Government aggressively promoting Tech innovations
The UK government has also been aggressively promoting technological advancement in the country. In a policy paper, the UK government’s Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng highlighted the long-term vision of the government for not only becoming the technological leader in the world, but also stressed the need to increase private sector investment in the country. The government feels constant R&D strengthening, innovation in robotics and AI will pave the way for a technologically superior nation.
cThrough its innovation strategy, the government aims to increase annual public investment to a record £22bn, create innovation hubs, and at the same time ensure that government procurement is proactive and provides a market for innovative products and services. The government has time and again said that it would be providing its full support for the advancement in technological solutions.
Universities to lead the way
Investment Minister Lord Grimstone, on the lines of Business Secretary Kwarteng, recently announced that five brand new digital manufacturing research centres and projects would receive a grant of £53mn to support the supply chains. The government wants a robust mechanism and to ensure that the supply chains become more productive. The government aims to achieve it in a system that will not only be competitive but also top-notch.
Nine UK universities will lead the way with digital manufacturing research centres after a £25mn grant from the government. The nine universities are Bath, Nottingham, Loughborough, Strathclyde, and Sheffield Universities who act as main research centres and will be supported by Bristol, Cambridge, Cranfield, and Warwick universities.
Strathclyde, Cambridge, and Loughborough Universities will become the digital medicines manufacturing hubs, while Loughborough, Strathclyde, Cranfield, Bristol and Warwick Universities will lead the charge for robotics.
With more and more countries moving towards providing sustainable and zero emission technologies, the UK has also been focused on the same. For this, the UK government has identified Sheffield, Cambridge, and Loughborough Universities as those working on ways to achieve net zero emissions. Supporting research centres like Bath, Nottingham, and Loughborough Universities will work towards ways to increase digital adoption throughout the country.
The UK’s National “Made Smarter” programme aims to create a perfect harmony between AI and blockchain for the supply chain to ensure productivity is more efficient and sustainable in the long run. The UK government wants the creative disruption that will set the trend for the rest of the world to follow and punch its weight up as the leader in global innovation.
Major boost for manufacturers
Minister Grimstone, further elaborating on the investment, said that the government is making sure that the manufacturers are equipped with the latest cutting-edge technology and improving productivity and becoming more competitive. The minister further added that this would not just entail the manufacturing sector alone. In fact, they want to spread it across companies irrespective of whether they are big or small to make the changes to take full advantage of the innovative technology that is being developed.
The government, in a boost to further digital supply chain projects, awarded £18mn to projects which showcased unique development of innovations. Jaguar Land Rover, Pragmatic Printing, Circulor, Food for Thought, Perpetual Labs were some of the projects that won the award. Jaguar Land Rover showcased its blockchain technology for tanning leather. Pragmatic Printing showcased its state-of-the-art project on intelligent automation to track packaging waste. The Circulor project is unique in that it will track CO2 emissions. Besides this, Made Smarter Innovation Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub too impressed the jury with its breakthrough solutions that create supply chains that are fully connected, resilient and sustainable. The Made Smarter Innovation Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub received a grant of £10mn.
Technological innovation spends to rise
The UK, which is ranked as the top tech scaling nation in Europe, has been a strong advocate of accelerating technology transformations. In fact, more than 80% of UK tech businesses are looking to spend more on innovation than before COVID-19. And with the advances in connectivity through 5G on the horizon, as well as increased computing power and further evolution of the internet of things (IoT), internet of behaviours (IoB) and cloud processing, the grant will strengthen the move.
Made Smarter Innovation Challenge Director, UKRI, Chris Courtney, was of the view that digital technologies have been changing the world and they can transform and provide a robust system which is not only sustainable but also effective. Adding further, he said that the drive to create new products and services would be pertinent for our future. Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult, too echoed a similar sentiment. He was of the view that the program will provide tangible solutions for nations supply chains, reduce food shortage, and will showcase the UK’s technological might in front of the whole world.
With the constant need for reskilling and upskilling, it is pivotal that countries around the globe keep constantly innovating. Tech related job opportunities have also increased recently, with 3,91,532 jobs advertised in 2020 alone. In fact, the tech advertised jobs percentage grew by 35% in just 2020. With the boost by the government this year, it will not be surprising to see the number go up in 2021.
The trend and intention showcase the will of the UK government to catch up with the tech hotspots of the UK and China. In fact, the rise of tech unicorns in the UK, which grew from 8 to 81 in 2020, itself should be positive signs that the UK tech industry is safe and secure, and this million-dollar funding will only help the industry to grow further.