As the UK prepares for a general election this year, techUK, the technology trade association, has outlined seven priorities that the next government should act on to deliver the benefits of technological innovation.

The seven priorities build on techUK’s UK Tech Plan, published in June 2023, which highlighted a wide range of strategic opportunities for the government to leverage technology to build a stronger Britain.

Alongside the seven priority actions, techUK has also published polling of 250 senior decision makers within UK tech companies. Conducted with Public First, the poll asked respondents about the business climate in the UK for the tech sector, as well as what businesses wanted to see from the next government.

Concerns growing about the cost of doing business

Tech companies continue to view the UK positively in terms of ease of doing business (70% scoring the UK above 5 out of 10) and around one third of respondents (36%) felt it was easier or much easier to do business in the UK than in comparable countries.

However, there are concerns about the weaknesses in the UK’s business environment with energy costs (24%), the level of business taxes (23%) and regulation (15%) the top choices when business leaders were asked to pin-point the most significant downsides of operating in the UK.

Energy costs (34%), software costs (25%) and the need for a skilled workforce (25%) were seen as the biggest barriers to technology adoption.

With the right policies tech can drive economic growth

However, with the right policies in place, tech and innovation can help to get the UK back on track to much needed economic growth.

The survey shows the strong growth ambitions of UK tech businesses both in the UK and overseas. The tech leaders surveyed said their number one ambition over the next five years was to grow their business, with just under half picking this option (45%), while over three quarters (77%) said they already had plans to, or were likely to consider, expanding their business internationally.

AI presents a huge opportunity

Unsurprisingly, AI was seen as the most significant new technology for tech businesses – AI tools, excluding generative AI, were seen as the biggest game changer with 38% of respondents picking this as the technology that held the greatest opportunity for their business. Generative AI was selected by 15% of respondents.

However, AI can only deliver if we have the infrastructure to support it and tech leaders also highlighted high speed internet connectivity (31%) and cloud computing (30%) as key technologies for their business operations.

techUK’s 7 priority actions for next government

Economic growth will be essential for the next government to deliver on its manifesto pledges and, with the right policies in place, the tech sector can be a growth engine for the UK.

Building on its 2023 UK Tech Plan, techUK has set out seven recommendations for the next government that build on the UK’s strengths and successes to drive the long-term sustainable growth that the UK needs.

The priority actions include:

Update the UK’s AI Strategy and deliver incentives for vital capital investment – this would help diffuse AI across the economy, reduce the cost of infrastructure and extend tax breaks to energy intensive tech companies.

Remove barriers to the digitisation of our public services – by implementing existing reforms already on the statute book through a new Technology Procurement Delivery Body and making it easier for citizens to manage their health through the NHS App.

Expand the opportunities of the digital economy to everyone through new skills initiatives, a strategy for digital adoption by 2030 and placing connected hubs in rural communities, replicating a successful scheme in the republic of Ireland.

Leverage new technology to keep us safe online and tackle fraud – through a new Online Safety Sandbox and creating parity between digital and physical Identities.

Create a new regulatory model that recognises the strategic economic importance of our regulators – taking action driven by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Number 10 to cut the cost of regulation and encourage innovation.

Help tech companies scale across the UK by identifying new funding opportunities and markets for UK scale-ups.

Adopt a new approach to trade and technology in a more fractious world – with new digital economy agreements and ‘tech bridges’ with close allies.

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Julian David, CEO of techUK, said: “The UK has strong foundations to build on, with a very competitive business environment for tech. But to achieve the economic growth which the whole economy needs, we must keep raising the ambition.

“By removing unnecessary barriers to innovation and putting in place the reforms and investment needed, we can bolster our innovation ecosystem right across the UK, supporting a stronger economy and better public services.

“This is the UK tech sector saying firmly that it wants to work with the next government to tackle the biggest, long-term challenges we face. These seven actions present some practical steps forward that we can – and need to – take towards the future we need.”

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