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UK Tech Sector Investment

Volume 654: debated on Thursday 7 February 2019

7. What recent assessment he has made of trends in the level of investment in the UK tech sector. (909091)

We lead Europe in developing a sustainable tech ecosystem. Tech Nation’s latest release in 2018 shows that the UK attracted more venture capital investment than anywhere else in Europe, with $7.9 billion in funding from investors, ahead of Germany, France and Israel. We announced £1 billion for the artificial intelligence sector alone in last year’s sector deal, which will help to unlock further opportunities for AI investment in the UK.

The UK tech industry has been one of the great success stories of the British economy over the last decade. Does the Minister agree that, as we leave the European Union, it is vital that we continue to retain that combination of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and investment flows, which have put the rocket boosters under the UK tech industry, so that we stay on the leading edge over the decades to come?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Tech is not only an enormously important industry in its own right, but it is vital to innovation and advances in so many other areas. The Government’s industrial strategy grand challenges seek to secure the country’s future in innovative technologies. FinTech, for instance, has raised nearly £12.2 billion in just the first half of 2018, with companies such as Revolut securing £190 million of investment. My Department will do everything it can to support innovators, including through the global entrepreneur programme.

As well as having immense strength in artificial intelligence, the UK is a world leader in medical research. Does my hon. Friend agree that the work being done to prepare for our post-Brexit future will deliver a superb collaboration with Israel that will help further strengthen the UK as a technological hub?

The industrial challenge’s grand challenge on ageing focuses on our world-leading pharmaceutical and health companies. We have a dedicated team in Tel Aviv actively promoting co-operation between UK and Israeli companies, and we have an established UK-Israel tech hub to enhance those partnerships between British companies and Israeli technology innovators.

The Minister missed an opportunity in his answer to the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris), in which he was invited to talk about a rocket. He should have said that this is the answer to Donald Tusk: to get out of hell, we are going to fly on a rocket.

The hon. Gentleman, as a Member from a party so bereft of optimists, gives an example to the others. This country has a great future outside the European Union, and technology, in which we are the undisputed European leader, is fundamental to putting a rocket up not only our industry but many of the people with whom he shares the Opposition Benches.

It is hard to follow that question. None the less, Northern Ireland has many companies that lead their fields in the tech and medicare sectors, so what discussions has the Minister had with the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland to partner and develop those Northern Ireland companies?

We work very closely with that Department. I would not say I am a natural industrial strategy sort of person, but the grand challenges have identified the big issues facing not only this country but humanity. By channelling our limited resources to those who make the most difference, we can support areas, not least agritech, in which Northern Ireland is a global leader.