Half of future EU unicorns should be British, said UK Science, Technology and Innovation Secretary, Michelle Donelan, as she addressed an audience in London today (16 January) about her priorities for the coming year. 

Donelan stated that the UK government would continue to support scaleups after citing that the number of people employed in tech startups in the UK has nearly tripled since 2018 to 1.8 million. 

This focus on scaleups is intended to match the levels of venture capital investment seen in the US tech sector, as Donelan clarified the UK government’s ambition was to “close the gap” between US and UK venture funding as a percentage of GDP. If achieved, this would result in an extra £5bn to the UK economy.

To achieve this, Donelan announced a new scaleup forum which she stated will bring together tech leaders from across the country. 

“[The forum] will drive meaningful change that builds on pulls together all these ideas alongside the excellent work of the Scale Up Institute,” Donelan said, “By really getting to grips with the thorny issues that entrepreneurs and investors face day in, day out from access to capital to infrastructure, skills, and regulation.” 

The Scale Up Institute is a non-profit run in the UK that works to make the country ideal for building up businesses. The institute collaborates with educational establishments, the UK government and larger corporations. 

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Donelan’s new forum will provide immediate support to 20 organisations by giving them advice on creating talented workforces, generating IP or expanding abroad. 

This will include a series of events hosted by Donelan with support from the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. 

In her address Donelan also spoke on the future aims of AI regulation in the UK, reiterating that the government would continue to “regulate to innovate”. 

“No business should be daunted by regulation,” she stated, “I want to enable businesses to get their products and services to market faster, more efficiently and without compromising on safety.” 

Research and analysis company GlobalData forecast in its executive briefing on AI that the global market for AI will soon be worth over $909bn by 2030 and is expected to disrupt businesses in nearly every sector.