Embracing the Future: The UK's International Technology Strategy and Its Impact on the Global Stage
by Patrick Adams, Consultant

The United Kingdom has consistently been at the forefront of technology and innovation. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson once stated, "We're restoring Britain's place as a scientific superpower." This remark aimed to reassure investors and scientific institutions that, despite Brexit, the UK remains a prime destination for research and business opportunities.

Published last week, the UK International Technology Strategy is a clear indicator that the UK government aims to continue building on its reputation as a global powerhouse in the tech sector after the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU. Since Rishi Sunak assumed office, there has been a renewed emphasis on technology at the heart of the UK government. This is evident in the recent establishment of the Department for Science and Technology (DSIT), which aims to position the UK at the forefront of global science and technology. DSIT's first major initiative, the £370m Science and Technology Framework published at the start of the month, is a ten-point plan designed to challenge every part of the government to leverage the UK's strengths better.

The International Technology Strategy builds upon this framework and emphasises the five key areas crucial to the UK's future economy:

    • artificial intelligence,

    • engineering biology,

    • quantum technologies,

    • semiconductors, and

    • telecommunications 

As these technologies drive advancements in various industries and scientific research, the government hopes the UK's investment and focus will ensure its global leadership in cutting-edge technology. By fostering innovation, creating new services, and developing breakthrough technologies, the UK aims to address global challenges and build a thriving economy. The strategy represents a commitment to maintaining a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

“We are a top-class breeding ground for emerging tech, but being a superpower means working with our international partners to turn these nascent technologies into global industries. Our International Tech Strategy will ensure we deepen collaboration with our allies on the technologies of tomorrow, driving growth and prosperity for the UK while strengthening our national security.”

Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology

The International Technology Strategy strongly emphasises working with international partners to promote the responsible use of technology. To that end, the UK will engage with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Global Forum on Technology and collaborate with the International Telecommunications Union to increase worldwide connectivity and provide clear leadership in the telecoms sector.

“Now more than ever, it is important that the UK steps up to promote British tech excellence worldwide and takes a stand against the malign influences that seek to use tech against us. That is why we’ve announced this strategy, helping to deliver on our ambition to be a tech superpower by 2030, backing UK businesses and helping us solve the challenges of tomorrow through innovation and international collaboration.”

James Cleverly MP, Foreign Secretary

Despite the ambitious goals of the International Technology Strategy, the UK is facing challenges in its relationship with the EU's €95.5bn Horizon science programme. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed scepticism about the value and cost of the UK's participation in the programme, which many scientists see as vital for research, investment, and turning the country into a "science superpower." This ongoing impasse presents a potential obstacle to the UK's broader technology strategy and global collaboration efforts.

However, the Prime Minister has expressed interest in an alternative research initiative devised by ministers, referred to as "Plan B." This programme would be spearheaded by the UK and involve cooperation with both non-EU and European countries. The plan was designed in the event that a research agreement with the EU could not be established.

The UK's International Technology Strategy is a plan designed to ensure the country remains at the forefront of global technology advancements. By focusing on key technology areas and fostering international partnerships, the UK has the potential to drive significant progress and maintain its status as a technology powerhouse. However, addressing the challenges surrounding the EU Horizon programme will be crucial in ensuring the UK's success in the global technology landscape or developing an alternative.

For more information on the strategy, or how Atticus Partners can support you with your public policy and corporate communications objectives, please contact tech@atticuscomms.com

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