Government investment is on the rise – good news for start-ups?
As the Supreme Court spends Christmas debating whether or not MPs will have a say in when, how and under what terms Britain triggers Article 50, there is good news for start-ups despite the uncertainty: both London and the UK government have pledged funding and infrastructure to support and bolster the UK tech sector.
Theresa May announced in a speech to the CBI last month that the government was investing an extra £2 billion per year in scientific research and development by 2020, with the aim of ensuring that British businesses “remain at the cutting edge of scientific discovery and came as part of a modern and ambitious industrial strategy,” wrote The Times.
A focus on artificial intelligence?
Of course, it’s not that straightforward. The body that will oversee the fund – known as the Industrial Challenge Strategy Fund – has yet to be formed, which means there are yet to consultations on what areas will be recipients. According to The Times, the government may focus on “emerging areas where the UK has proven scientific strengths such as robotics, artificial intelligence, industrial biotechnology and medical technology, satellites and advanced materials manufacturing.” A timeline for these decisions has not been outlined.
Focus on fintech and digital
Days after Theresa May’s speech to the CBI, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans to “plough £400 million into venture capital” with a focus on “fintech, digital and life sciences sectors.” However, there was criticism that the funds wouldn’t be enough to “bridge the late-stage funding gap for startups.” KPMG’s Tech Growth practice co-head, Patrick Imbach told CityAM that this move by the government “was a timely acknowledgment that our long-term investment culture in the UK, as far as tech start-ups are concerned at least, is lagging behind the likes of the US and China.”
He acknowledged that “it could go some way to plugging any potential gap in funding from the European Investment Fund,” but that “the chancellor failed to address was access to talent and skills.”
Apprenticeships for digital, tech and creative careers
London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced last week that he was going to address just that issue by creating a £7 million fund to “arm young Londoners with the skills they need to access jobs in the capital’s thriving digital, technology and creative industries,” according to SAT Press. As the UK’s potential withdrawal from the single market threatens free movement and the essential influx of tech expertise from Europe, the fund aims to “plug the growing gap between the skills young Londoners have and those that digital and technology businesses in the capital need if they are to continue to thrive.” The fund will have a special focus on recruiting and training women and minorities.
The Mayor also wants to “protect the capital’s office space.” Backed by research by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which – according to CityAM – “recommends continuing to protect office space through the planning system” by “limiting the conversion of offices into residential space” and “seeking funding and partnerships to create new space for startups.”
Best digital city for entrepreneurs
This came directly after Nesta and the European Digital City Index once again ranked London the best city for digital entrepreneurs, “ranked according to what entrepreneurs said was important to them – including mentoring and managerial assistance, business environment and digital infrastructure with varying weightings for startup and scale-up businesses. London, said Nesta, “remains the best city in Europe for digital entrepreneurs because of its access to capital, vibrant entrepreneurial culture and access to a skilled workforce.”
Advice for start-ups: network now
But how do start-ups begin to untangle and access the different options as they become more apparent? The key is networking. Keep on finding opportunities to pitch your start-up, to meet with like-minded peers, and put yourself in as many networking scenarios as possible. London and the UK are full of these opportunities, and every one will bring you closer to your business goal.
The next TechPitch 4.5 – part of the established series of pitching competitions in London – will take place on 31 January 2017. The deadline to apply to pitch is 6 January 2017. Apply to pitch, come meet other start-ups, and network with investors, analysts, journalists and serial entrepreneurs.