Tech News : Autumn Statement Suggests IT Spending Boost

28th November 2023

The announcement of measures intended to boost investment in innovation and technology in UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement could mean increased spending on IT and AI.

Measures To Boost The Tech Sector

The UK Chancellor’s Autumn Statement introduced a range of measures aimed at boosting the tech sector, with potentially significant implications for tech spending and investment in innovation. Some tech commentators have suggested that this could mean that private-sector IT buyers will see a long-term boost. Here we take a look at how the measures announced could affect tech spending, their potential overall impact, and any negative effects they might have.

Positive Impacts on Tech Spending 

Some of the key announcements in the Autumn Statement that could have a positive effect on tech spending include :

– A permanent full expensing policy. Mr Hunt’s decision to make the full expensing policy permanent allows private sector IT buyers to write off the cost of IT equipment against tax. This policy, therefore, looks likely to encourage more investment in IT infrastructure, as companies can deduct these expenses from taxable profits.

– Enhanced R&D tax credits. The merger of the R&D Expenditure Credit and SME schemes from April 2024 will make more companies eligible for claims supporting innovation. It’s thought that around 5,000 additional small businesses may benefit, thereby helping to foster a more innovative environment in the UK tech sector.

– Investment in AI and quantum technologies. The government’s commitment of £500 million over two years to establish additional ‘compute innovation centres’ and the funding being part of a larger £1.5 billion investment is intended to enhance the UK’s capabilities in AI. The Statement also outlined five quantum missions as part of the ‘National Quantum Strategy.’ These missions focus on establishing advanced quantum computing capabilities and networks and incorporating quantum technologies in various sectors such as healthcare, transportation, and defence by 2030 and 2035. One key benefit of quantum computing being made available to healthcare could of course be breakthroughs in areas like drug discovery. Thinking back to the pandemic, many peopel may remember how quantum computing was something that was being used to help speed the way to developing effective vaccines.

– Skills development Initiatives. It’s long been known that the UK has a tech skills gap which is something that threatens to hamper its ambition to become an international technology superpower. Therefore, a £50 million investment to pilot ways to increase apprenticeships in key growth sectors (including engineering) aligns with the need for a skilled workforce to sustain tech advancements. Mr Hunt also announced three more investment zones (on top of the 12 announced in March) in order to boost advanced manufacturing in the West Midlands, East Midlands, and Greater Manchester.

– Support for clean energy and infrastructure. The outlined efforts to cut grid access delays and provide financial incentives for clean energy businesses will likely accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy, benefiting green tech initiatives. For example, a £960m Green Industries Growth Accelerator fund may help to support emerging technologies in clean energy and the transition to net-zero.

Not All Positive 

Some of the Autumn Statement announcements, however, may not be such good news for the UK’s tech sector. For example, some of the potential challenges and negative effects include:

– Negative economic forecasts and tight public spending: Despite some of the ambitious measures announced, their success is essentially contingent on economic forecasts, which are currently revised downwards. A significant squeeze on public spending due to inflation may also hamper the plans for digital transformation, especially if budget constraints affect public sector investments.

– Implementation and collaboration needs. The effectiveness of the many potentially positive measures announced depends on the government’s ability to implement them quickly and efficiently. Also, government collaboration with the tech sector is crucial to ensure these policies translate into tangible growth and innovation. For example, the government will need to work alongside tech companies, startups, and industry experts to understand their needs, address potential challenges, and ensure that the policies are actually practical and beneficial.

– A reliance on estimates and uncertainties. Some reforms, like those to the energy grid and pension and capital market reforms, are unfortunately based on estimates that may not actually materialise as expected. If these projections fall short, it could limit the overall impact of the statement’s measures on tech investment and growth.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The Autumn Statement’s initiatives offer a promising landscape for businesses beyond just IT buyers, possibly signalling a transformative shift in the UK’s approach to technological advancement and innovation. The decision to make full expensing permanent, coupled with enhanced R&D tax credits, may help present a financially viable path for businesses across various sectors to invest more boldly in new technology and innovation projects. This change not only eases the financial burden of such investments but may also go some way to encouraging a culture of continuous innovation.

The substantial investments in AI, quantum computing, and compute infrastructure could open up new avenues for businesses to access and leverage advanced technologies. These technologies, for example, have the potential to revolutionise product development and operational efficiency across a wide range of industries. As a result, organisations can look forward to not only improved business-processes but also the possibility of developing groundbreaking new products and services.

The focus on developing much-needed tech skills in the UK workforce through apprenticeships and training initiatives is another critical aspect. This approach could help give UK businesses access to employees equipped with the necessary skills to navigate and contribute to an increasingly complex technological landscape. This is particularly crucial at a time when technology is evolving rapidly, and the demand for skilled professionals is at an all-time high.

Businesses with a focus on green technologies or those looking to transition to more sustainable practices may get support through initiatives aimed at reducing grid access delays and promoting clean energy. This not only aligns with global trends toward sustainability but also offers a competitive edge to businesses that prioritise environmental responsibility.

However, businesses in what are challenging economic times are likely to see the announcements in the broader economic context. The success of these measures is not guaranteed and is contingent upon effective implementation amidst economic uncertainties and potential public spending constraints. Therefore, businesses need to stay informed and agile, ready to adapt to changing regulations and economic conditions.

Looking on the bright side, this year’s Autumn Statement generally appears to present a multifaceted opportunity for businesses to grow, innovate, and adapt in a rapidly evolving technological environment. If UK businesses can capitalise on the initiatives announced and navigate the associated challenges, they may be better positioned to make the most of new technologies like AI.