Plexal startups react to the autumn budget
The chancellor began by telling the house that “this budget is about much more than Brexit” before laying out his plans to help Britain “run towards change, not away from it” and become a “hub of enterprise and innovation” and a “beacon of creativity”.
But while he may have produced the laughs with pop culture nods, a subtle jab (presumably aimed at colleague Michael Gove, who is rumoured to be angling for his job) about “economicky words” and even a skit featuring cough drops, did the startup community think the government's autumn budget delivered when it comes to their needs?
And will the contents of Philip Hammond’s red briefcase be enough to lay the groundwork for Britain to lead the world’s fourth industrial revolution? We asked our members to find out.
Pete Trainor, co-founder of AI company US Ai
“£9m for something that’s going to have so much red tape and people crawling all over it might not be enough”
“I think allocating £9m to a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to “ensure safe, ethical and groundbreaking innovation in AI and data-driven technologies” is a great start and breaks new ground. It shows that the government is taking things in this space seriously. But I also worry that £9m for something that’s going to have so much red tape and people crawling all over it might not be enough.
What the government does need to ensure, though, is that the right people are brought in to feed into the debate and the governance work. Unfortunately, at too many of the government’s recent AI roundtables you see a lot of futurists and business owners but no real practising data scientists, designers or technologists – i.e. the people working hands-on with applied machine learning. That needs to change – and quickly."
Richard Peel, PR and marketing manager for renewables startup Plastic Energy
"We also look forward to a more joined up government approach to waste management”
“We need to see the detail of the proposed action, but in principle anything that encourages the public to put single use plastic in the right place so it prevents pollution and can be recycled can only be a good thing. We also look forward to a more joined up government approach to waste management so those involved in the recycling process can get easy access to waste materials that can – and should – be transformed into synthetic hydrocarbon fuels and oils and back into new plastic.”
Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, CEO of Stemettes: the organisation aiming to get young women excited about science, maths, engineering and technical (STEM) subjects and careers
“We need to work a lot harder on getting everyone digitally literate and feeling like they can contribute”
“I’m happy to see the A-level maths incentive come to fruition. It was floated at a cabinet office roundtable I attended back in 2013 and might go some way to boosting enrolment in the short term.
However, for a budget that admitted there had been poorer productivity than projected across the UK economy, it’s not enough to ensure people have access to good quality jobs in STEM sectors. STEM sectors are a growing contributor to our GDP and we need to work a lot harder on getting everyone digitally literate and feeling like they can contribute.
I’m excited to be part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s Digital Skills Partnership Board which aims to make the UK “the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business” and I am looking for this to happen quickly. This isn’t necessarily something that’s just the responsibility of the chancellor."
Alberto Chierici, CPO and co-founder of insurance technology company SPIXII
“We'd like the government to make applications to access public spending and international VISAs less time-consuming”
"The plans unveiled in the budget to help startups and regional tech companies scale are promising. AI is now firmly on the national agenda, and it's good to see planned investment in its safe and ethical development.
It's a promising start but while we welcome the financial support and investment in hi-tech research, more support may be needed – especially given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. We'd like the government to make applications to access public spending and international VISAs less time-consuming. For a time-strapped startup, this is a major hurdle."
So a mixed report. The chancellor had some welcome goodies for startups in the form of investment and concrete plans to lay the foundations for a technology-led, knowledge-intensive economy. But there’s clearly a lot more work to be done.