UK government’s new digital strategy aiming to position UK as a global science and tech superpower

As part of an overall strategy to strengthen the UK’s position as a “global science and tech superpower”, the UK government have recently released a policy paper focusing on their digital strategy. Their aim is to develop the UK as the best place in the world to start and grow a technology business. Already, the UK has seen exciting growth in digital businesses, and the paper cites that a new technology business was launched in the UK every half an hour throughout 2020.

Recognising that “ideas and intellectual property are at the heart of innovation which feeds digital businesses”, the strategy incorporates a strong focus on intellectual property. Currently, the UK ranks fourth on the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Global Innovation Index, which measures a country’s innovative capacity and output. The government’s aim is to develop this further, and the report outlines the following ways in which they plan to encourage innovation:

Supporting universities to develop new ideas and technologies

They have announced an increase in funding for UK Research and Innovation, which includes Innovate UK. In particular, they wish to invest in university spinoffs, citing that the Higher Education Innovation Funding programme generates £8.30 for every £1 of funding, plus a further £1.80 through investment in spinoffs. There will be a particular focus on AI and quantum technologies, as well as advanced semiconductor research, which form part of the seven technology families identified as of particular interest in the Innovation Strategy published last year.  

Incentivising businesses to innovate

There are currently several incentive schemes in place to encourage innovation, including R&D tax relief and a reduced rate of corporation tax paid on income to profits earned from patented inventions via the Patent Box scheme. The government plans to review these further and has already announced that they will expand R&D tax reliefs to cover cloud computing and data acquisition.

They also encourage innovation through the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network, and plan to ensure there is adequate provision of, and access to, large-scale, high-performance computing, for example Hartree Centre in Warrington. They also focus on the innovative nature of digital media and highlight the issue of ensuring that artists are fairly remunerated from music streaming, an issue being explored by the UK Intellectual Property Office alongside digital streaming platforms and the music industry.

Innovation in the NHS

The paper recognises that, as the largest integrated health system in the world, the NHS holds enormous potential to develop digital and data-driven technologies to improve treatments, models of care, and how the health and care system functions. To ensure the security of patient data, Secure Data Environments, including Trusted Research Environments, will be used to provide researchers and analysts with secure access to appropriate levels of data. In particular, the NHS ‘AI Lab’ supports the safe, ethical and effective adoption of AI in health and care and has committed over £100 million to accelerate testing and evaluation of over 80 AI technologies. An additional £200 million funding has been announced between NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, for the NHS data infrastructure to support data-driven research and innovation.