Sunak hails supercomputers as key to making UK leader of next generation technology

·3 min read
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak set out his vision on the first day of the annual London Tech Week conference celebrating the UK’s tech sector. Photo: Daniel Leal/WPA Pool/Getty
Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out his vision on the first day of the annual London Tech Week conference celebrating the UK’s tech sector. Photo: Daniel Leal/WPA Pool/Getty

Rishi Sunak announced that he will launch new review into supercomputers as part of the government’s new Digital Strategy to boost the UK’s productivity, prosperity and innovation.

Speaking at London Tech Week on Monday, the UK chancellor said high-performance computers and cloud capabilities were vital for powering technologies of the future, such as artificial intelligence (AI).

"The extraordinary power of the emerging generation of supercomputers will change every aspect of our economy," the chancellor said in his opening remarks.

He added: "From modelling the effects of climate change, to powering the discovery of new drugs and increasing business innovation, the capabilities of advanced compute are endless.

"The UK is a world leader in innovation and this review will help us maintain that position — as we embrace new technologies and the people that create them to drive forward our growth and productivity."

Read more: UK government urged to prioritise business investment to avoid recession

Sunak also hailed new tech, saying the UK must "embrace new technologies" if it wants to succeed in the future, adding supporting innovation was key to the UK’s economic success and that the country must back "capital, people and ideas".

Setting out his vision on the first day of the annual conference celebrating the UK’s tech sector, he said: "What really matters for economic success is innovation.

"If we want our country to succeed we need to do what we’ve always done, and embrace new technologies and the people and culture that create them. No serious analysis of our prospects could conclude anything different.

"Because if we get this right, if we back our capital, people and ideas, if we can encourage that incredible spirit that I see everywhere in this country, then we can be confident that Britain stands on the cusp of a new era of innovation and change."

Read more: UK tech overtakes China with £12.4bn in startup investment

The chancellor said reforms to listing rules would make it easier for firms to raise funding, highlighting recently announced visa changes to allow more "high potential" individuals from global top 50 universities into the UK to boost ideas and skills.

It comes as separate data revealed that UK tech companies have raised more venture capital funding in the first five months of this year compared to the whole of 2020.

The £12.4bn in funding raised so far this year puts the UK second only to the US in terms of start-up investment, and ahead of China, France and India.

The supercomputers review will be led by Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, AI professor at the University of Cambridge and director of Google Brain.

Ghahramani will report later this year with recommendations for how the UK can deliver the UK’s computing needs not just this year, but for decades to come, Sunak added.

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