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Liz Truss launches future trade strategy for UK tech industry

New measures to boost digital trade and help turn the UK into a global tech powerhouse have been announced today by the International Trade Secretary, answering industry calls for support for UK tech firms.

Liz Truss will unveil a package of strategic interventions during London Tech Week to support UK tech companies to seize trade and investment opportunities overseas. Developed in partnership with stakeholders across the industry, the interventions will boost the sector over the long term and aid its immediate recovery from Coronavirus.

The new measures jointly announced by the Department for International Trade and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, will seek to increase tech exports to fast-growing international markets, including Asia-Pacific, strengthen scaleups’ market readiness to export, and attract investment to drive innovation and create jobs.

The comprehensive range of measures includes the creation of a new Digital Trade Network for Asia-Pacific, which will support UK SMEs to break into the Asian market. The plans also include the launch of a new Tech Exporting Academy, which will provide expert advice to UK scaleups on subject areas essential to expansion, including regulation, intellectual property, and compliance. The Academy will be led and delivered in partnership with leading professional services firms.

The measures are being announced as part of a wider programme of support for UK tech to ensure the industry benefits from trade opportunities, including future free trade agreements (FTAs). The UK is currently a world leader in tech and digital, attracting more than £10bn worth of investment in 2019, ranking third only behind the US and China. Future FTAs with partners like the US and Japan will enable the UK to go further, setting new standards in areas of digital technology and e-commerce, and encouraging further investment into the UK’s world-leading tech companies.

This week the Department for International Trade launched the first round of negotiations with Japan. Government analysis shows a UK-Japan FTA will benefit every region and nation of the UK, with the greatest benefits in Scotland, London and the East Midlands. Trade talks will cover all areas set out in the UK’s published negotiating objectives, including cutting edge provisions on digital trade, professional and financial services and support for SMEs.

A number of digital tech subsectors are seeing increased demand as a result of Coronavirus – including EdTech, MedTech, fintech, and cyber security – leading to more export opportunities. Recent research by Sage UK shows 37% of UK SMEs are looking to grow their trade in international markets over the next 3 months.

International trade secretary Liz Truss said: “The measures we have announced today will help businesses take advantage of opportunities in fast-growing markets overseas, and provide the support that firms need to grow and eventually ‘go global’. Trade agreements we are negotiating with key partners will go further than others in addressing barriers to digital trade, opening up huge opportunities for our exporters and also for inward investment into the UK.

“I want the UK to be the leading global voice in digital trade and the intellectual driving force in the space, breaking new ground in trade policy and pushing forward innovative new ideas like a global single market for digital trade. Now is the time to harness our talent and potential and unleash it on the world stage. The measures announced today are an important step forward in achieving that.”

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The UK is home to a globally renowned tech sector and we are determined to help it grow further by taking an unashamedly pro-tech approach. Through this strategy, we will give tech businesses of all sizes and all over the country the tools they need to expand their operations overseas and succeed on the world stage.”

Industry reaction

Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech Nation said: “The UK needs a tech-fuelled recovery and that means opportunities to grow businesses from domestic ideas to international brands. 80% of companies on our Upscale 5.0 programme listed International Expansion as one of their top scaling challenges in 2020.

“We are therefore delighted to support a new Digital Trade Network. Connecting businesses to local networks using on-the-ground expertise will help innovative UK businesses make the leap to new markets. We look forward to working with the Digital Trade Network to support great British technology.”

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