MANBAG OWNER Philip Hammond on Wednesday delivered the government's Autumn Budget, and while there is a clear focus on Brexit, there are some interesting announcements around technology.
Much of the Chancellor's announcements centred on emerging technologies that'll impact our lives over the next few years. In particular, there's a focus on 5G connectivity, driverless cars and artificial intelligence (AI).
In a bid to promote a greener future for Britain, the Chancellor announced new funds and tax incentives for owners of electric cars. The government will invest £400m to improve charging infrastructure, along with £40m for battery tech research.
The government is also looking to transform research into driverless cars and wants to get the first models on British roads by 2021. Hammond believes that the industry will add £28bn to the British economy by 2035, creating 27,000 jobs.
Russell Goodenough, client managing director of transport sector at Fujitsu, commended the government's commitment to driverless cars.
"The latest announcement from Chancellor Philip Hammond is yet another indicator of the UK's commitment to accelerating the pace of change," he said.
"This presents an exciting challenge for those investing in the transportation sector. Driverless cars throw up serious questions, including how we ensure a safe environment for their operation.
"It is crucial that we begin to address these issues today. Driverless cars could boost UK productivity by enabling employees to work while commuting, as well as reducing accidents on the road and reducing the amount of land needed for parking."
Around £160m will aid research into 5G as well. The government wants Britain to become a pioneer in the next generation of mobile connectivity. But Nick Watson, VP EMEA at Ruckus, said it may take years for 5G to become mainstream.
"It's refreshing to see government investment into connectivity, but 5G will take several years to become mainstream. While it may one day meet expectations, we need a solution now," he said.
"Our big cities urgently need networks that can support the world class infrastructure that the government wants to build, so instead of holding our breath for 5G we should invest into Wi-Fi technology for a simple, cost effective solution.
As well as driving research into 5G, the government is looking to support companies and organisations working on AI solutions. Hammond has set aside £75 million for the industry and will support start-ups, particularly.
Mark Purdy, research managing director of Accenture, said:" The UK needs a new lever to boost its productivity in the form of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, which need to come into the mainstream.
"But it's not just about the money the government commits to in the Budget. It can help by providing the right regulatory environment to stimulate private sector investment and focus on training, so the right skills are available to UK plc.
"Regulatory innovation around the application of AI and machine learning—in transport, manufacturing, finance, energy, education, healthcare and the environment—can pave the way for the industries of the future."
Many people are worried about the growing STEM skills gap, but the government said that schools are to be given £600 for every student taking A Level maths, with more resources to be provided to technology teachers.
Graham Hunter, VP of EMEA at CompTIA, said: "It's welcomed news that 12,000 teachers will receive some long overdue support to help deliver the next generation of tech savvy students and increase the number of people coming into the industry, particularly girls.
"Teachers want to remain relevant and training 12,000 teachers will ensure they can confidently deliver the skills required to support a key growing industry."
Eleswhere in the budget, Hammond announced plans to crack down on tax-avoiding technology firms. Facebook, Apple and Google have all come under criticism for registering sales from British customers in Ireland, while Amazon has historically recorded all European sales in Luxembourg. µ
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