Tuesday 9 June 2020 10:00 pm

Government unveils pandemic support package for struggling tech firms

International trade secretary Liz Truss will on Wednesday unveil a package of measures designed to help bolster the UK’s tech community, as businesses continue to struggle during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jointly supported by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the measures are aimed at helping British tech companies find new business overseas.

Primarily the government will establish a so-called Digital Trade Network, valued at £8m, for the Asia-Pacific region to aid international expansion. It is also hoped the move will attract more talent and capital to the UK.

A new Tech Exporting Academy will be created and led by professional services firms including KPMG, EY and Deloitte to provide small tech firms with advice on how to reduce the barriers to entry for exporting goods and services.

Data from Statista in March showed the exports of almost a fifth of UK businesses were affected by coronavirus, increasing the need for government support as the pandemic continues to weigh on revenue.

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“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,” Truss is expected to say.

As travel is disrupted due to the ongoing pandemic, the DIT said it will create a new digital platform to help businesses unable to attend international conferences and investor meetings. To be launched in September, it will provide access to overseas trade shows and support virtual dealmaking.

There will also be a new tech network established within the UK to encourage more cooperation across the regions. In partnership with Tech Nation, 25 tech export champions will be created across the so-called Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine, London and the south.

“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,” said digital secretary Oliver Dowden alongside the announcement, made at London Tech Week.

“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.”

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Truss will reveal an extension of the DIT’s existing High Potential Opportunities tech programme, which seeks to drive foreign direct investment into emerging sectors such as 5G and immersive technology.

Finally, a new marketing campaign will be created to highlight UK fintech businesses that enable digitisation and resilience in priority export markets. It will come alongside a separate effort to boost marketing and communications for UK Export Finance.

Tech is one of the strongest growing areas of the UK economy, contributing £149bn in 2018. British tech companies attracted more than £10bn in investment last year, breaking new records despite the economic impact of Brexit.