Liz Truss isn’t having a great week. The UK’s latest prime minister is failing to face down the backlash to her new chancellor’s controversial mini-budget from last week, which hurled the pound to a 40-year low.
Now, the new resident at Number 10 is also getting panned by detractors doubting her ability to transform Blighty into a tech powerhouse.
The ARM founder made the gloomy statement about the UK and its inability to become a tech leader at the Bloomberg’s Technology Summit in London.
He said the nation struggled to keep ownership of whatever technology company the country managed to produce.
British ARM is a perfect example of that. Following the failed acquisition of ARM by chipmaker Nividia, its owner Softbank announced that it would take ARM public.
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However, to the chagrin of Boris Johnson, it seemed as if SoftBank was dead set on filing for an initial public offering in the States – where tech businesses tend to get higher valuations and thus higher returns for investors – and not in the UK.
Johnson went on a charm offensive to convince Softbank to do a dual listing of ARM in both New York and in London, but his defenestration from Number 10 halted any progress that he might have done.
ARM founder is not alone in doubting the UK and its tech supremacy dreams
However, the founder of ARM is not the only market stakeholder doubting that the UK can become a tech superpower.
The UK’s inability to reach technology sovereignty is further hobbled by the fact that the government lacks any discernible technology strategy to create more homegrown semiconductors, which are used in everything from cars to computers.
A report from the House of Lords asked in July if microchip supply is a national security issue – looking at the global supply chain, production geopolitics and foreign ownership.
It concluded by stating that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was working on a semiconductor strategy “to be published shortly,” but this had yet to materialise.
This week the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee followed up on the report by inking an open letter to Truss.
The letter urged her to acknowledge the central importance of science and technology in delivering economic growth for the nation.
It added that if the PM agreed on this premise, then she should’ve already appointed a science minister at a cabinet-level, something the committee had asked for in an inquiry concluded in August.
“We note, however, that at the time of writing this position has not been filled and any minister of state appointed is not expected to attend cabinet,” the open letter said. “We urge you to reconsider this and appoint a science minister to cabinet at the earliest opportunity.”
Just appeasing Big Tech
In July, the government stated its aim to transform the UK into an “AI and science superpower” and unveiled a new policy to make that vision a reality. However, analysts criticised the proposals of “appeasing Big Tech” and for being too ambiguous to work in the long run.
“The new ‘pro-innovation’ UK AI guidelines are clearly aimed at appeasing Big Tech and encouraging AI investment in the UK,” Sarah Coop, thematic analyst at GlobalData, told Verdict at the time.
“The drafts are still vague, but the proposal to be ‘proportionate and adaptable’ where ‘we will ask that regulators consider lighter touch options, such as guidance or voluntary measures’ suggests there will be no real pressure on Big Tech to change its AI systems in the short term.”
Moreover, while the UK celebrated that its tech scene had become a $1tn powerhouse at the beginning of the year, industry experts we spoke to at the time said the nation would’ve reached that goal earlier if the government hadn’t gone through with Brexit.
With the ARM founder now joining the tech community in doubting the government’s ability to transform the UK into an innovative hot spot, it seems the PM won’t run out of headaches any time soon.
GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.