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UK advisory team assembled to drive government’s 'Silicon Valley' ambitions

The team's formation marks the first concrete steps taken towards realising the UK's 'next Silicon Valley' ambitions since they were announced in the Autumn budget

Five 'industry-leading experts' have been appointed to support the government in achieving its goal to position the UK as the world’s ‘next Silicon Valley’.  

Announced today, the team of experts will work alongside national technology advisor Sir Patrick Valance to conduct a review into the UK’s tech industry and identify key barriers to innovation and economic growth. 

The move follows comments made by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt during the Autumn Statement where he outlined the government’s goal to further develop the UK tech ecosystem and support businesses.  

Under the plans, Hunt confirmed a review of the UK’s tech sector would assess existing rules and help develop a ‘pro-innovation’ regulatory approach to allow businesses to scale and drive innovation in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing

The new advisory team will work closely with key industry stakeholders to identify areas of improvement and outline how the government can support businesses, Hunt said.  

Joining the team are Matt Clifford, chair of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), and Priya Lakhani OBE, a member of the AI Council

Both have been appointed to support work to harness emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the government said.  

Meanwhile, Sir John Bell, who serves on Genomics England’s board of directors, and Camilla Fleetcroft, Eclevar UK’s VP of clinical and regulatory affairs, will focus on cultivating the life sciences sector and “drive the next generation of discoveries”, such as delivering genomics-enabled clinical trials. 

Jane Toogood, CEO of catalyst technologies at Johnson Matthey, will also support work on building green industries like hydrogen and battery development in the UK. 

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the new advisory team will enable the government to “supercharge growth” in some of the UK’s key industries.  

“Economic growth and raising productivity is critical if we are to improve the standards of living for all Brits. One of the most sure-fire ways to deliver both is betting big on innovation, which is exactly what we intend to do,” he said.  

“Backed by this fierce new team of advisers, Sir Patrick Vallance will lead the charge alongside industry to supercharge growth in some of the world’s most exciting growing technologies, turning the UK’s natural strengths into pillars for long-term growth.” 

Dr Henry Balani, head of industry and regulatory affairs at Encompass Corporation welcomed the announcement as a positive step in supporting the UK tech industry. However, Dr Balani warned that the government must strike a healthy balance between supporting innovation while maintaining robust regulatory protections. 

“These appointments are a positive indication that the government is taking tangible steps towards fulfilling its promise to support and drive innovation, which will ultimately fuel growth and help to bolster the UK’s position as a global leader," he said. 

“There's some way to go before the government’s ambition of the UK being recognised as ‘the world’s next Silicon Valley’ is realised, and there must be attention placed on how the UK develops its regulatory model so that there is an effective balance between the importance of fostering innovation and ensuring a robust environment," Dr Balani added.

Regulatory reforms 

This latest announcement from the government builds on plans to deviate from "burdensome" EU legislation and regulatory frameworks in the wake of Brexit

Last week, the chancellor unveiled the first of a number of initiatives to scrap EU laws with the announcement of the ‘Edinburgh Reforms’.

 Aimed at supporting the financial services sector, Hunt said the reforms will establish a less costly and “more responsive” regulatory framework for the industry and reduce red tape for businesses.  

This will include a commitment to make “substantial legislative progress” over the course of 2023 on repealing and replacing EU-era Solvency II – the rules governing insurers' balance sheets. 

According to the government, this is expected to unlock over £100 billion in private investment for productive assets such as UK infrastructure. 

Across 2023, the chancellor revealed plans are underway for a “series of exciting growth announcements” in five high-potential sectors, including the tech sector, green industries, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and the creative industries.  

Long-term, Hunt said this will enable the UK to keep pace amidst an increasingly competitive global tech landscape.  

“I want British firms to lead the world in turning fantastic science into new products and services,” he said. “And we need to make sure government is doing everything we can to encourage innovation and competition.

“The countries that secure leadership in new technologies will lead the world, enjoying unparalleled growth, security, and prosperity for decades to come – and it is our job to ensure the UK is able to fully reap the rewards. 

“Sir Patrick and his team will be critical as we harness every tool at our disposal to create the industries and jobs of the future, which will deliver long-lasting benefits for local communities across the UK." 

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