Monday 21 November 2016 12:29 am

Tech-tastic: May pledges billions to support tech champions as she fleshes out industrial strategy

Prime Minister Theresa May will reveal details of her government’s flagship industrial strategy at a conference of business leaders today, promising billions in extra funding and potential tax breaks for a range of sectors.

While insisting her plan is “not about picking winners”, she will identify several technology-related areas in the UK that the government believes can thrive commercially, given more backing. The PM will identify “robotics, artificial intelligence, industrial biotechnology and medical technology, satellites, [and] advanced materials manufacturing” as sectors that could benefit from government support.

“It is about government stepping up, not stepping back,” May will tell the CBI annual conference.

She will pledge an extra £2bn per year in government spending towards research and development (R&D),via a new fund to back “priority technologies”.

Read more: Theresa May promising an "unashamedly pro-business" government

And high-tech firms could be in line for a potential cut to corporation tax and a review of tax credits for R&D.

May’s government announced the creation of a Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in July, shortly after the former home secretary entered Downing Street.

“Our modern industrial strategy will be ambitious for business and ambitious for Britain,” she is expected to say. “It is a new way of thinking for government – a new approach.

“It is not about propping up failing industries or picking winners, but creating the conditions where winners can emerge and grow. It is about backing those winners all the way, to encourage them to invest in the long-term future of Britain.”

Read more: Don't fear: The PM's industrial strategy won't take Britain back to the '70s

Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs commented: “The PM says she doesn’t wish to pick winners but then appears to run off a list of industries and sectors where she apparently has a strong hunch about their long-term profitability. That sounds exactly like picking winners and it won’t work. Technology is moving so rapidly that it’s nearly impossible to predict which areas will be successful in the future, especially if you’re sitting in Whitehall. The government should limit itself to ensuring a level playing field on regulatory certainty so that emerging tech companies know exactly which rules they need to abide by.”