'Proud geek' Rishi Sunak vows tax breaks for tech firms

Rishi Sunak promises tax breaks for tech firms and declares he’s proud to be a ‘geek’ as Chancellor wistfully remembers his time in California

  • Rishi Sunak uses a speech to declare he’s proud to be known as a ‘tech geek’
  • The Chancellor launches London tech week and promises tax breaks for firms
  • He wistfully remembers his time studying and working near Silicon Valley 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today declared he’s proud to be known as a ‘tech geek’ as he reiterated his promise of greater tax breaks for businesses.

In a speech to mark the beginning of London tech week, Mr Sunak wistfully remembered his time studying and working in California.

He described how living in America’s ‘Silicon Valley’ had left him aware of the importance of innovation in driving economic success.

The Chancellor expressed his hope that Britain stood ‘on the cusp of a new era of innovation and change’.

And, as part of the Government’s mission to turn the UK into a science and tech superpower, Mr Sunak announced a major review into Britain’s supercomputer capacity.

Ministers hope to grow the UK’s tech sector by more than £40billion over the next three years and to create more than 650,000 new jobs.

A new digital strategy published today has seen the Government outline a roadmap for boosting Britain’s tech sector. 

Rishi Sunak expressed his hope that Britain stood ‘on the cusp of a new era of innovation and change’

As part of the Government’s mission to turn the UK into a science and tech superpower, the Chancellor announced a major review into Britain’s supercomputer capacity

Mr Sunak wistfully remembered his time studying and working in California – including at Stanford University

In his opening address to London tech week, Mr Sunak hailed how the UK had created more tech ‘unicorns’ – start-up companies valued at more than $1billion – than any other country outside the US or China.

But he also acknowledged a ‘need to do more’ to turn around slowing rates of economic innovation.

The Chancellor, speaking to tech leaders, vowed to make sure the UK’s tax regime for innovation was ‘globally competitive’ and created ‘proper incentives for all of you to invest and invent’.

He said: ‘We need to do more to support private sector R&D (research and development). And that includes tax.

‘On the face of it, we have one of the most generous tax regimes for R&D investment anywhere, measured by how much we spend on it.

‘But despite spending huge and rapidly growing sums, clearly it is not working as well as it should.

‘In the UK, business spending on R&D amounts to just three times the value of the R&D tax relief.

‘The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average? 13 times.’

At his Spring Statement in March, Mr Sunak had already promised to cut the tax rates on business investment at his Budget this autumn.

He also pledged to reform R&D tax credits and to consider whether to make R&D expenditure credit more generous.

Referring to his earlier career, prior to entering politics, the Chancellor recalled how he had the ‘privilege of living, studying, and working in California’ – including as a student at Stanford University.

‘That experience left a lasting mark on me,’ he said.

‘I lived and breathed the culture that was adventurous, optimistic, and forward-thinking. Willing to take risks. To be imaginative.

‘To build new products, services, businesses that could change the world.’

He added: ‘My political opponents actually love to paint me as some kind of tech geek.

‘As I’m sure you’ve gathered this morning – that’s a label I’m actually proud of.

‘I will always be on the side of entrepreneurs, innovators, young people inventing the future.

‘Because the biggest lesson I took from my time in California still guides me now, as Chancellor.

‘What really matters for economic success – is innovation. If we want our country to succeed, we need to do what we’ve always done and embrace new technologies, and the people and culture that creates them.’

Mr Sunak also used his speech to announce Zoubin Ghahramani, a professor of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Cambridge University and a leader of the Google Brain project, will oversee a new review into the future of ‘compute’ – the large-scale processing power, memory, data storage and networks that does the work everyday computers can’t do.

It is also an enabling technology necessary for AI, ‘Internet of Things’ sensors and quantum computing.

The review is aimed at reversing a trend whereby the UK’s compute capability if falling behind the needs of the country’s tech sector.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the new tech strategy would also involve creating a new Digital Skills Council to help ‘plug the skills gap’ in the tech sector, and would also look to ‘capitalise on the freedoms we now have to set our own standards and regulations’ now the UK has left the EU. 

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