Well thank you very much Brent, and it is fantastic to be here at London Tech Week taking full advantage of all the virtual technology that we’ve been using during Coronavirus.
And first of all, I just want to thank the Tech industry for all your brilliant work keeping jobs going, keeping business going, keeping trade going, at this really difficult time for the economy, and I think it’s fair to say that tech has really stepped up, and actually British tech has stepped up, and we should be really proud of what’s been achieved.
The UK is a tech superpower
I mean if you look at the figures the UK is home to 77 tech unicorns, we’ve got the largest tech cluster in Europe, last year we attracted £10 billion worth of investment, which is up 44% from 2018. That’s more than France and Germany combined.
And, of course investment is important, but what’s even more important is the jobs and the growth that this generates right across the United Kingdom – 1.6 million jobs, contributing £149 billion to the economy, and it’s grown more than 30% since 2010.
It’s a really fast growing part of the economy, and my ambition as Trade Secretary working very closely with Oliver Dowden, our Culture and Digital Secretary, is to not just grow within the UK, but to actually grow our tech brand overseas. Because we really are a tech superpower – in terms of the number of unicorns we are third in the world after the US and China.
We’ve got so much to offer; the innovative nature of our companies, our approach to doing business, the strong trust in the rule of law in this country – we really do have a huge opportunity.
Future Tech Trade Strategy
What I’ve announced today, is our new Future Tech Trade Strategy, and this is all about attracting more investment from around the world into UK tech, but also promoting UK tech around the world and working with partners across the globe to really boost our presence in overseas markets where we know there’s a hugely growing demand for British products.
Whether that’s EdTech, whether it’s MedTech, whether it’s FinTech, there is a whole gamut of products where we lead the world and we want to help you get your products into those markets.
So, what we’re doing really falls into four categories:
Free Trade Agreements
First of all, free trade agreements. You might have seen that yesterday we launched our free trade agreement negotiations with Japan. Those trade negotiations are important, first of all of course for goods and services, but also because we will be able to sign a very advanced digital and data chapter with Japan.
The Japanese are keen for that, we’re keen for that, we can go further than perhaps we would have been able to as a member of the EU in areas like free flow of data, anti-data localisation – but also using digital to make trade easier and simpler.
So, whether it’s helping small businesses with customs facilitation, whether it’s helping with certification, these trade agreements really help the backbone – they essentially help create a digital single market between us and the country we’re trading with.
Japan is important in its own right, of course it’s a hugely advanced technology nation, but it’s also the biggest player in CPTPP, which is an alliance of eleven Pacific nations which spans as far as Mexico, Canada, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.
And CPTPP has a very advanced digital and data chapter. I want the UK to also become part of that and make it much easier for us to do digital business with all of those eleven countries that are part of CPTPP.
So, there’s a huge opportunity in terms of free trade agreements. But of course, free trade agreements are the framework.
Digital Trade Network
What we need to be doing is helping our UK companies get through the door. So, we are also announcing an £8 million digital trade network for Asia Pacific, and this will help UK companies access those key markets.
What it will mean, is that we have tech experts located in our embassies and high commissions that can actually help explain what you do to the local market.
We have also got TechNation involved in the way that those digital experts are going to work. So, this will include places like Singapore, Tokyo, Jakarta, and the Government has put three years’ funding into these specialists in Post to help get our products, our services and our companies explained in those local markets.
And the idea of working with TechNation is it means that we are able to reach back into the UK to really make sure that it is reaching every part of our country. So regardless of whether you are based in Bristol, Glasgow, Norwich, you will be able to have access to that network in AsiaPac and our trade experts and Trade Commissioners will be able to feed back the opportunities into the UK market.
Supporting UK exporters
The third thing we are doing is helping businesses more directly, making sure that they have the capabilities to export their products.
One of the things I am very keen to do is make sure our finance agency, which is called UK Export Finance – it’s been around for a hundred years, it’s traditionally financed products in areas like manufacturing and energy – I want more products suited to tech companies and I’ve asked UKEF to work with the tech industry to look at how we can make sure our products are helping underwrite your business.
So, this will cover things like trade credit insurance, making it easier to have the security of knowing that you will be paid for the products you are selling overseas. So, export finance is a really important part of our package.
We are also going to establish a Tech Exporting Academy which will help companies in areas like regulation, intellectual property and compliance.
So regardless of which market you are selling into around the world, we will have experts who understand selling tech into those markets and can help you with some of those tricky issues that you come across.
And it’s important to note that this is a pro bono service. So, this service that the Tech Exporting Academy, will be offering is pro bono.
Encouraging tech investment across the UK
And finally, Brent mentioned the whole issue of investment and we have been incredibly successful as a country at attracting investment into the tech industry. That is because of the talent in the industry, there is no doubt about that.
We have outstanding talent; we’ve got outstanding tech companies. What we want to do as a government is make sure that we are levelling up across the country, so that that investment is of course going into London, but it’s also going to the North of England, it’s going into Wales, it’s going into Scotland, it’s going into Northern Ireland.
So, we are focusing on attracting more investment across the country and we are planning to have investment specialists located right across the country.
We also want to focus on specific tech sectors, so areas like 5G, Industry 4.0, photonics, immersive technology, to make sure that we really are targeting our investment message into specific sectors and helping international investors understand just the level of depth of expertise we’ve got here in the UK.
Now this is a start to our work on tech exports. We recognise there is going to be more that we are doing over time. We have started the network in Asia Pacific but we want to expand that across the globe.
The trade agreements – we have just started negotiations on the first few of those – there will be more opportunities in the future.
What I am really keen to do as Trade Secretary is get feedback from industry about what will help you, what are the barriers in your way that stop you exporting or stop you attracting that investment.
How can we help break down those barriers? How can we help you get your messages across?
I really do feel that we are world leading in technology. I think that the last few months have really demonstrated the resilience and expertise of UK tech.
I am very keen to get out there helping you sell what you do and work with liked-minded partners across the world to build a really global proposition.
I’ve just got one final point to make, which is how you can follow up on some of the announcements I’ve made today. I can circulate this via you Brent, but we have got an email address – techexports