4 October 2016

There was plenty of news to come from the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham yesterday. Did you follow it?

phillip hammond

Image from @Twitter

So much has changed in a year; not only has the country voted to leave the EU but we also have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet. So much disruption and distraction and, after all of this, one question still remains: where are we heading?

Whilst he has been accused of complacency, I was particularly interested in Philip Hammond’s speech. Not knowing what the next year will bring has been a worry to say the least and I imagine most business owners are feeling the same. Brexit could make the UK less attractive for tech companies and investors, so it’s a step forward to finally receive a little more clarity from the Chancellor.

Although Hammond is by no means an expert in the field of tech, he did mention many of the greatest tech developments of recent years; 3D printing, the Internet of Things and graphene – an area in which Manchester excels. It was reassuring to hear his optimism and ambitions of wanting to find ways to help the country “cement its role as a leader in tech innovation”. I hope it’s not just rhetoric to gain a bit of favour after uncertainty around the Northern Powerhouse and lost EU investment.

Interestingly, he also spoke about how the British tech industry will be supported post-Brexit and we finally got to see some numbers in terms of investment. In my opinion, the announced £220m to be spent in support of tech innovation will make a huge difference, especially since most of it will be used to encourage research and collaboration, and to remove unnecessary barriers that no longer work for businesses in the day and age. Let’s hope they deliver on this promise. We all know that the government aren’t great at spending money, but are really good at talking about it.

Expanding the Challenger Business Programme helps new businesses launch, but it’s also proven to be supportive in turning tech ideas into a commercial success. So far, it has created a tax allowance for the money earned from the sharing economy. There are too many other areas in tech where legislation has not quite caught up.

While I don’t agree with everything Hammond proposes, I do think he has introduced a wave of optimism which we need to keep the British tech industry going. Brexit has hit our industry particularly hard, with many businesses wondering whether they would be better off moving their headquarters to other European cities. The ‘rollercoaster ride’ Hammond mentioned in his speech is the last thing we need right now!

There are still many questions that we need answered in tech; what will happen with data regulation, for example? Will our data continue to be protected by Europe? Will we be part of the single digital market? Equally, when will we have confidence back especially when we’ve just heard that the pound is at an all-time low against the dollar!

The next six months will be essential in establishing an environment in which tech companies can feel secure to call Britain home. We definitely need this feeling of optimism and pride to prevail.

Do you feel more confident after yesterday’s speech?

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