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Hunt pledges to make UK ‘the world’s next Silicon Valley’

Jeremy Hunt has used his autumn statement to set out an ambition to make the UK the “world’s next Silicon Valley”.

The Chancellor said he wanted to “combine our technology and science brilliance with our formidable financial services”.

He said he would seek to use the UK’s post-Brexit position to change EU regulations in “five growth industries: digital technology, life sciences, green industries, financial services and advanced manufacturing” with chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance leading new work looking at how to “change regulation to better support safe and fast introduction of new emerging technologies”.

The Chancellor said the Government would announce any proposed changes to existing regulations “by the end of next year”.

Mr Hunt also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to bring forward legislation that would hand new powers to the Digital Market’s Unit (DMU).

First announced in the Queen’s Speech in May, the proposals would give new powers to the DMU within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to tackle anti-competitive behaviour by tech giants and protect consumer rights.

In response to the announcements, Rashik Parmar, group chief executive of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said the pledge was an opportunity to also futureproof the economy.

“We welcome the Government’s ambition to build on our global strengths in science, technology and innovation, transforming the UK into the next Silicon Valley,” he said.

“In delivering on this, we have an opportunity to embed ethics, professionalism and standards to move fast and make things, not move fast and break things.

“As we face immense economic challenges, it is essential the UK Government continues to drive strategic investment in digital skills to futureproof and level up our economy, public services and industries.

“With over 60,000 vacancies in the IT sector alone, any disinvestment in budgets for digital technology and skills will act as a brake on growth and ambitions.

“Our sector needs many more competent professionals from diverse backgrounds to drive the next wave of digitisation.

“The UK Government’s Innovation Strategy made it clear that the benefits of a digital Britain must be enjoyed equally by citizens across every UK nation and region.

“Regional investment will help areas of the UK to ‘level up’ and close the digital divide – everyone deserves to have the essential digital skills to make sure they are not left behind in the digital age.

“Investment in digital skills will benefit all sectors of the economy and improve the UK’s global competitiveness; strategic investment is essential to creating a culture of responsible computing and innovation.”