All eyes were on Chancellor Philip Hammond as he delivered 2017’s Autumn Budget. There’s no denying that we’re in turbulent times politically and economically, however, technology is expected to become a major benefactor of this year’s investment pot.
Hammond’s speech began by emphasising the UK’s current digital position when stating the world is currently embarking on a technological revolution, “Britain is at the forefront of this technological revolution,” he said, “but we must invest to secure that future.” From there, he announced the following investments:
While the chancellor focused predominantly on driverless car technology, he announced extra funds and tax initiatives for electric-car drivers including a £400m charging infrastructure fund, an extra £100m in Plug-In-Car Grant, and £40m for research into charging. “Our future vehicles will be driverless,” he stated, “but they will be electric first.”
Hammond told reporters that the main goal is to have “fully driverless cars” without a safety attendant on board in use by 2021. Although this target is ambitious, the industry is said to be worth £28bn to the UK economy by 2035 and create 27,000 jobs, which is certainly good news.
Computer Science Skills
To ensure every secondary school student has the opportunity to study Computer Science, the chancellor wants to triple the amount of teachers in the field to 12,000 across the UK. An investment of £100m will be placed to train new computer science teachers and reduce the skills gap that has affected education in this subject over the past few decades.
Hammond announced £160m will fund next-generation 5G mobile networks across the country. Supporting the decision earlier in this year’s Spring Budget, 5G is becoming the focal point in development of new technologies such as driverless vehicles. Road testing is expected to be announced in the near future enabling driverless cars to ‘talk’ to each other. Good news for rail passengers comes in the form of a £35m boost to improve mobile signal and Wi-Fi speeds - trials will take place on the Trans-Pennine route.
To place the UK at the forefront of AI a pledge of £75m has be made to develop practical uses for artificial intelligence technology. Included in this investment is £20m towards supporting businesses and start-ups utilising this technology, £45m to increase the number of PhD students studying in the field and an additional £9m towards developing the world’s first AI Advisory Board.
It looks like the next few years could make the UK a fantastic environment for digital growth. A new high-tech business is founded in the UK every hour. Hammond wants that to be every half hour and the above investments are just the start