Britain’s digital industry is moving apace. On it depends much of Britain’s future economic growth and that of its success story, the Small and Medium sized businesses (SMEs). So if it is to flourish we must get the policy right and tackle the problems that exist.
Immigration – Talent first. The first big one for me is immigration. This is a hot topic but an important one. We need to ensure the attempted clampdown on immigration does not prevent the arrival of the right people and skills e.g. the best engineers, computer scientists, etc. In other words, we must avoid blanket restrictions that only end up harming the UK’s long-term prospects.
Home Grown Talent. We don’t only need to look abroad for the best people, but also concentrate on supporting home-grown talent. The Conservative manifesto includes provisions to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020 and to take steps to nurture entrepreneurial and digital skills in schools. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects are an area where the skills shortage is most apparent. This needs to be a real focus.
A Vital Role for Arts and the Humanities. We do however need to be careful with our education system and moving too far away from the arts subjects in favour of the sciences since that could stifle creativity and free thinking. We need to ensure the right balance between technical knowhow and creative flair. Thanks to the rise in the Fintech scene and ‘cool factor’ of companies such as TransferWise and Uber, tech and digital are the in-topics to learn which will help with future talent.
A Free Market in Finance. No business can take off without fundsto stay afloat and invest for growth. With SMEs the supposed lifeblood of the economy, it is vital they’re able to access funding from the alternative providers, like Everline. So the government should continue to champion the rise of challenger brands like Everline which can offer a better, more convenient, often more flexible alternative to the established banks, which frankly have been shamed on so many occasions in terms of their dealings with small businesses. It should also go further in its efforts to clamp down on late payments by big businesses. In fairness to the government, since 2010 it has been doing many of the right things in these areas but there is still a lot more to be done.
And, to complete the winning hand, government should promote the conditions for businesses to take reasonable risks and develop innovative new goods and services with the expectation that their ideas can be protected (within reason and for a certain period) from imitation by larger, better-funded businesses. This means intellectual property and incentives for enterprise also need to be protected. And for the digital economy, the need to invest in broadband and other key infrastructures that help new businesses flourish around the country is important.
Working Together. We all – Government, industry experts, and academia – must work together to instil a higher level of digital confidence across every region in the UK to ensure SMEs are able to continue to be the foundation of the UK economy.