UK government plans marketing drive to encourage deep tech investment

Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan leaves following the weekly Cabinet meeting in number 10, Downing Street on November 22, 2023 in London, England
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Secretary of State for science, innovation, and technology Michelle Donelan is today expected to reveal a new £1.5 million marketing campaign to try and push the UK's science and technology sector.

Speaking at a techUK conference in London, Donelan will call on UK investors to back science and technology scale-up businesses, particularly those at Series A-C level and beyond.

"The UK has built a £1 trillion tech sector from a thriving startup scene, outpacing our European counterparts at every turn and creating innovators capable of shaping the global economy," Donelan told City AM ahead of her speech.

"With further capital, there is absolutely no limit to where startups can take their ideas. But too often, founders look to other parts of the world to find that next level of funding."

The campaign is expected to focus on the deep tech sector, and will target venture capital hubs in London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff. According to the government, just one Series A investment could match the cost of the campaign’s initial round.

A report late last year from Digital Catapult found that a quarter of early-stage investors view the UK as the deep tech epicenter of Europe.

"The UK has a history of incubating some of the most investable deep tech businesses in Europe and, as this new data reveals, despite ongoing economic headwinds and geo-political crises, investment appetite for sustainable, advanced technology-based solutions remains strongly focused on the UK," said Digital Catapult CEO Jeremy Silver.

However, he added, "Investors cited lack of industry connections and the challenge of navigating the startup landscape as one of the biggest barriers to investing in deep tech startups."

The government has come under fire for its lukewarm efforts to boost the tech industry in last week's budget. In a survey, tech firms told innovation funding consultancy Ayming UK that the most effective way to support UK innovation would be to increase the generosity of R&D tax credits, with 95% seeing it as important.

However, Donelan's announcement has been welcomed by Wayne Johnson, CEO and co-founder of KYC process automation firm Encompass Corporation. Johnson said greater efforts to drive venture capital funding into UK startups is needed.

"With the Chancellor doubling down on the UK’s Silicon Valley ambitions in the Spring Budget, government support, through investment and widespread promotion, is an essential piece of the puzzle. Showcasing a thriving technology sector plays an important role in attracting investment throughout the UK, including from overseas investors," he said.

"The government has many ambitions for the UK; to be a leading financial hub, to be a science and technology superpower, to be the next Silicon Valley. The common thread is that for all those ambitions to be achieved, we need a vibrant, best-of-breed tech sector that attracts interest and investment at all stages and corners to propel it forward."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.