Katie Gallagher, MD of Manchester Digital and chair of the UKTCG, and Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central and Shadow Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media
Manchester Digital and UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) welcomed the Shadow Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Powell for a discussion around the future of the digital and tech industry.
Lucy, who is also the MP for Manchester Central, told the group about Labour’s plans for growing the digital and tech economy.
Katie Gallagher, MD of Manchester Digital and chair of the UKTCG, and group members talked through their own experiences of the tech industry in their regions, and what is still needed to develop the sector fully.
Lucy Powell reported that as the official opposition, the Labour Party supports all of the UK regions, and ensures that digital regulation, data and AI policies nationally underpin the work of local and regional leadership and businesses across the UK in delivering a world-leading tech economy which works for all communities.
Lucy said, “We are keen to work with the tech industry in all parts of the UK. With proper devolution, local leaders could design their own programmes and decide how funding is allocated without the expense and time of bidding to multiple fundings pots held in Whitehall.”
Phil Jones, director of innovation at Wired Sussex, said: “The ‘connective tissue’ of our local and regional ecosystems are crucial to driving innovation - both for high productivity businesses, and in the foundational economies. Through our work at the grassroots, we see practical ways to support more people and companies to benefit from the opportunities which the digital economy creates.
“As a sector, we are keen to help young people really understand the wide variety of career pathways within the industry with huge scope for progression. We also need a more supportive environment for the Angel sector, and a better way to connect early-stage start-ups with Angel investors. All of this would create a wider ‘connective tissue’ to support the growth of the tech industry.”
David Dunn, CEO at Sunderland Software City, agreed, “It’s really important that we reach into schools to help develop the tech pipeline. So we need to create more talent, from school age to ensure we have a growing pathway into the tech industry.”
Katie outlined some current limitations of the Apprenticeship Levy. “We would like to see the opportunities for smaller employers, who often don’t take on apprentices for fear of the unknown. It would be great to see an awareness campaign as well as some level of reform around how businesses can use the Levy.
“The funding that goes into Business Growth Hubs, for example, is for generic businesses, not specifically tech or startups. Devolution can help the tech sector as local leadership and their business community know where they need specific funding.”
Katie reiterated how important it was to include smaller tech clusters in wider programmes, otherwise they frequently miss out.
Phil added, “Engaging with partners on the ground who collectively understand industry needs and barriers to growth and inclusion, is crucial to ensuring all parts of the UK are able to share in the success of our tech sector.”
Yiannis Maos, CEO of Birmingham Tech, expanded on this, “We need to support our tech SMEs to reach their potential because that’s where growth happens. This also creates jobs in our communities and drives innovation across the economy.”
The UK Tech Cluster Group works with Government and Parliamentarians as well as local leadership, industry and partners within our clusters. Members are represented on the Government’s Digital Economy Council and Digital Skills Council and collaborate nationally to support the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth of the UK’s tech ecosystems.
A version of this blog post also appeared on the UK Tech Cluster Group: