Tech focused Spring Statement overshadowed by Brexit

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement was packed with commitments to technology and science, which you could easily have missed amid all the drama over the Brexit ‘no deal’ vote.

Hammond promised “significant additional support for cutting-edge science and technologies that will transform the economy”, create highly skilled jobs, and boost living standards across the UK.

He first welcomed the Furman review, an independent review of competition in the digital economy, which he said had found that tech giants have become increasingly dominant. 

Call to update competition rules for the digital age 

The Chancellor then announced that the government will respond later in the year to the review’s calls to update competition rules for the digital age – to open the market up and increase choice and innovation for consumers.

Hammond said he had written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) asking them to carry out a market study of the digital advertising market as soon as is possible. This was a recommendation of the Furman Review.

The Chancellor also committed to funding the Joint European Torus programme in Oxfordshire as a wholly UK asset in the event the Commission does not renew the contract. This he said would give the world-leading experts working at the facility certainty to continue their ground-breaking fusion energy research.

Additionally, he said the government was investing £81 million in extreme photonics (state-of-the-art laser technology) at the UK’s cutting-edge facility in Oxfordshire.

Photonics man: Hammond gave boost to extreme tech in budget statement

Hammond also provided a boost to the UK’s controversial genomics industry, by pledging £45 million for bioinformatics research in Cambridge.

And he announced £79 million in funding for a new supercomputer in Edinburgh – five times faster than existing capabilities – whose processing power will contribute to discoveries in medicine, climate science and aerospace, and build on previous British breakthroughs including targeted treatments for arthritis and HIV.

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