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techUK calls on next gov to lead on AI – though tech leaders just want lower energy costs

Wish list also features deregulation, tax breaks

Photo by Arnaud Jaegers / Unsplash

techUK has posted a wish list of tech priorities, including an updated AI strategy and investment incentives, for the next government ahead of this year’s general election.

However, the organization has also found that UK tech leaders’ immediate concerns are soaring energy prices and the rising cost of living.

The Westminster government is bound to call an election by the end of this year, with the latest date by which Brits must go to the polls being late January 2025.

The UK’s main political parties have yet to formally set out their election manifestoes, but the tech lobbying group laid out seven tech priorities for whoever does form the next government.

Needless to say, AI tops the list with techUK calling for “an updated AI strategy” as well as incentives for “vital capital investment”. Specifically, it calls for the classification of “strategic digital infrastructure as nationally significant” and the extension of the R&D tax credit to cover capital incentives, to “fast track the delivery of key infrastructure to keep us competitive”.

Slightly more vaguely, it demands the removal of barriers to the digitization of public services, including citizen health accounts and moves to ensure “interoperability of the NHS”. And it calls for moves to “open the opportunities of the digital economy to everyone”.

While cyber security is a strategic level threat, techUK limits itself to calling for the next government to “leverage new technology to keep us safe online and tackle fraud”. It asks for legislation and guidance to “create parity between digital and physical IDs”.

See also:'s “ostrich” approach to cybersecurity leaves country “exposed and unprepared”

Other asks include a “new regulatory model”, including a “commercialization of tech taskforce” to balance consumer protection while regulators “shepard [sic] key parts of the economy into the future”.

Likewise, it wants help for tech firms to scale, and “a new approach to trade and technology in a more fractious world”.

Some of these asks are rather woolly, and business lobbyists rarely ask for more regulation or taxes. But techUK claimed they would help ensure the tech sector could add over £200bn to the economy every year by the end of 2020s, as SMEs invest in tech and boost productivity, and the removal of regulatory barriers unlocked investment into semiconductors, quantum, and AI. Similarly better use of data and the digitalization of the national grid could cut the investment needed to reach net zero by as much as £17.6bn a year.

However, the laundry list was accompanied by research which shows UK tech leaders’ concerns are currently far more prosaic.

They are certainly aware of the potential of AI, with 38 percent choosing AI “generally” as the greatest opportunity for their business, ahead of highspeed connectivity and cloud. Gen AI came in third, cited by 15 percent.

But asked about the barriers preventing them adopting new tech, a third cite energy costs. A quarter pointed to software costs while a similar amount flagged up skills.

When it comes to the biggest threats to business, 36 percent pointed to rising energy costs, with a third flagging up the high and rising cost of living generally. This harks back to similar research last year. Just over a fifth mentioned cyber vulnerabilities at a national level, while 19 percent were worried about “fraud and cyber crims that could impact my business directly”.

When it comes to the next government, it really does seem tech leaders just want someone to help them keep the lights on.

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