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TechUK calls on government to increase tech sector R&D support

Lobby group recommends R&D tax credits, tech-growth incentives and digital training schemes to help expand the UK's tech sector

The UK government could do more to help the tech sector research new technologies, employ talented workers and ultimately boost the economy, according to a techUK report. 

The industry lobby group's quarterly Digital Economy Monitor has found that 76% of its members want more help, financially and administratively, with research and development (R&D). 

Members have raised concerns around recruitment and the number of skilled workers available in the UK. Some 30% of the respondents want more training for people in the UK, while 21% have called for better access to overseas talent. 

Increasingly, respondents feel more could be done by the government to help ease the situation, either with more skills initiatives or changes to immigration and visa access. When asked what would improve the outlook of tech businesses, 56% of members highlighted that increasing support for R&D would help the industry continue to expand. 

R&D investment is seemingly high on the list of priorities for all members, with 76% considering it a fundamental piece of their business model. It enables companies to seek out and test emerging technologies, which in turn helps to create new jobs, but there are "several" barriers hindering companies from meeting their objectives, according to the report.

Talent is again a big issue, but members have also cited a lack of financing options and little support from the government, which could offer R&D tax reliefs or R&D subsidies, respondents said.

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Around 60% of techUK's members plan to expand their businesses and hire more workers, but again, there is a feeling that there are too many obstacles. More than a third (35%) are simplifying looking to maintain their current headcount, while 5% stated that they aim to decrease their headcount in the UK.

TechUK has offered a few ways the government can help accelerate tech-led growth for the benefit of the whole UK economy. To start with it recommends "grasping the opportunities of post-Brexit regulation" with a task force to handle emerging tech. The aim here is to find a balance between post-Brexit regulation and the digital economy.

It has also called for more work towards digital adoption by tackling the skills shortage. Specifically, expanding the coverage of the Help to Grow: Digital scheme with tax credits and continuing to reform the apprenticeship levy. This is in addition to R&D tax credits and establishing business incentives to invest and grow.

"We must act to build the right incentives not only for digitally savvy companies to continue to grow but also to support all businesses across the economy to complete their digital transformation journeys," Said Neil Ross, associate director for policy, techUK.

"This means encouraging businesses to continue investing in productivity-boosting capital and machinery, not penalising businesses for going digital through an Online Sales Tax, and creating partnerships between government and industry on regulation, emerging technologies, and digital skills."

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