General Election 2015: What Does The Technology Industry Want?

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We ask tech firms what they want from the General Election and who they want to see in Number 10

Tomorrow, the British electorate will head to the polls to vote in one of the most unpredictable General Elections in a generation. Health, education and the economy will be pivotal issues for many people, but the election will impact the technology industry too

A number of tech entrepreneurs reportedly sent a letter to The Guardian backing the Conservatives, but we wanted to see what firms really thought. So what do tech companies want and which parties are they supporting?

Read More: Party-By-Party Guide To Technology Policy

Economic growth and business support

James Poyser, co-founder of inniAccounts, an online accounting firm

London On View Image“As an online business, any commitment to a broadband infrastructure is welcome. Being online isn’t a differentiator anymore, it’s an entry criteria and imperative for the knowledge economy. We exchange tens of thousands of files with clients, talk to HMRC electronically and we run our hosted PBX phone system over the broadband connection. It’s integral to delivering our service, and ultimately our brand.

“We’d also like to see more commitment to helping the scale-ups. The emphasis on start-ups is commendable but there is very little to help the companies that are ready to grow. Bank loans come with unreasonable terms, and peer-lending isn’t right for everyone. Being able to access a scale-up loan, or take a National Insurance holiday, as we could have done when we were a starting up, would give us the capital boost to invest in more R&D and application development.

“On that note we’d also welcome a structured programme that links scale-ups with experienced experts who can help us remain privately owned. Tech entrepreneurs who have gone before us and understand the phases a technology company goes through would be invaluable for us. Sadly, too many businesses like ours make costly mistakes seeking out this kind of help.”

John Davis, managing director, BCSG

“As a mid-sized technology business based at Silicon Roundabout, we were pleased that the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour all recognised the importance of SMBs – in all of their manifestos and through their campaigning. Although their manifestos all cater for SMBs in slightly different ways they all centre on providing financial support in one form or another.

“Where they fall short, however, is the lack of understanding that SMB funding just isn’t the issue that the main parties seem to think it is. In fact a recent Bank of England report found that 77% of SMBs are not seeking overdrafts or loans. The next government needs to focus on providing SMBs with access to guidance, insight and technology that will help them grow their businesses. Small businesses are being held back by their inability to access the same tools as their larger competitors, it’s only through helping to provide these tools that the government can hope to accelerate growth.”

Andrew Yates, CEO and co-founder of Artesian Solutions

I think the Conservatives are the party that best supports enterprise, especially by developing incentives to create business. That means incentives to create real jobs in real companies.

Raising tax to fund prosperity is like asking a person standing in a bucket to lift them-self up the handle. The welfare state, commitment to the NHS and the continuation of our great and admired social values, are a given. The stark choice for me is to support a party who can bring true economic prosperity and wealth creation for everyone – or see another party which believes in the redistribution of wealth to somehow provide incentives for people to better themselves.

At Artesian, we have managed to grow at a time of economic turmoil. If we stick to the current path and reach a reasonable level of economic recovery we do expect greater rewards. Initiatives such as cutting Corporation Tax and indeed more investment supportive of tech innovators like ours are crucial to drive growth and value-added innovation over the next five years,

Without question, I’m looking for strong leadership that supports enterprise, entrepreneurship and rewards risk takers and wealth creators. I’m voting the Conservatives.

Brandon Ackroyd, Head of consumer insight, Tiger Mobiles

Piccadilly circus london bus night art © Konstanttin ShutterstockWhat I’d like the next government do is move away from corporatism and move back towards free market capitalism. In a centrally planned economy, prices are set by fiat and organized by a committee; rather than by the bottoms-up approach; entrepreneurial, self-interested, individualistic, free market approach.

This significantly hinders the ability for technology companies to innovate, expand and compete with the big players. In our current setup the top 1% have access to free cash at virtually 0% interest rates and can simple operate as they please without ever having to worry about new players in the market cutting into their market share.

I’d also like a full and fair referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Brussels is rife with problems and one of those is that  it is a huge dampener on the UK technology industry – there is too much regulation, unfair tax rules and just a general innovation stifling culture. Based on the above I think I’ll be supporting UKIP at this years General Election as so far they are the only party who are keen to address some of the issues I pointed out above.

Martin Campbell, managing director, Ormsby Street

“For the tech industry in the UK to be successful, there has to be more support in exporting. The DTI does some work in this area – mainly to point people in the direction of other sources of information for trading overseas. What we need however, goes much further than this. Practical help and legal advice particularly around setting up and managing foreign market entities and international tax, licensing and VAT are all areas which most UK tech companies must deal with if they are to trade internationally, but where help is difficult to find and has many gaps.”

“From a personal perspective I’d like to see what the Lib Dems can do if they really had the chance to set the agenda, rather than make comments from the sidelines.  I’ve met most of our local (Lab, Con and LibDem) candidates over recent years, and the person who has impressed me most, not just his ideas, but on the way he clearly listens to people and responds to their needs and concerns is Stephen Lambert, the Lib Dem candidate for Aylesbury. The Lib Dems have had a rough ride over the last parliament for not getting enough of their agenda done, but in my personal view, I think they’ve been a great counterbalance to the Conservatives knee jerk austerity measures.”

Better Communications

Barney Lane, director of regulation at Colt

packetfront“Although UK businesses invest £16bn a year on communication technologies, many are still unable to tap into infrastructure they require to grow, in particular superfast broadband. We are stunted by a lack of competition in the telecommunications market.

“To give businesses access to digital infrastructure, we need to boost competition and incentivise connectivity providers to invest in superfast networks. Failure to act will result in continued foot dragging, leaving businesses unable to compete on both a national and global level.

“It is not only roads and railways that will drive Britain’s future economic growth – the digital economy will play a huge part in this. With the election looming, political parties need to commit to policies and investment around infrastructure that will make Britain a powerhouse in the global digital economy.”

Piers Daniell, managing director of Fluidata

“There are many issues that need to be addressed by the next government from education to health but digital advancement needs to be on the agenda. And not least because it can help support wider initiatives like those geared towards education and economic growth. I am convinced it will have a greater impact on our economy than HS2 for example.

“We continue to see investments in broadband networks but is it in the right places, and is the government doing enough to ensure that everyone is able to get online? This may be due to the lack of digital literacy among politicians, but something needs to change if we are going to embrace all of the opportunities that the Internet has to offer. It isn’t just rural areas that are suffering. The big cities are also behind when it comes to superfast broadband, even London.

“Britain, as a whole, needs a culture change and this needs to be led by the Government. The web can happen wherever, whenever and through whatever means people want. Delivering this should be at the forefront to ensure advancements in schooling, healthcare, work and leisure can be taken advantage of. Work has begun in the form of the rural grants and connection vouchers, so I personally will be voting for the Conservatives, in the hope for a high speed Britain.”

Immigration

Anthony Sherick, managing director at specialist IT jobsite Technojobs

hiring jobs wanted“There is an ever-growing demand for digital specialists who can help embed and install complex systems into pre-existing infrastructures. The current skills shortage in the IT/tech industry is prompting more employers to turn to skilled contractors to ensure work levels are maintained. Contractors play a critical role in the success of UK businesses – the next government needs to continue to support entrepreneurial spirit and must not curb this enthusiasm with the extension of tax restrictions on contractors. These workers are the lifeblood of the UK’s IT/tech sector, with their expertise shared across many different verticals. If their role is limited due to tax, this could stifle productivity and the stunt the growth of our digital economy.”

Jerome Laredo, Vice President – EMEA and Asia at Lightspeed POS

“The UK needs to remain a place where it is easy to do business. The issue of immigration is important for Lightspeed as we need to be able to bring personnel from the US and Canada to help grow the business here.

“To create more jobs in the UK and grow as fast as we need to it’s important that we are able to bring staff from our international offices to facilitate knowledge transfer and provide training to the locally hired staff. Immigration is high on the agenda in this election.  And it’s something we’ll be watching closely.”

Alastair Paterson, CEO of UK cyber intelligence company Digital Shadows

“The UK technology scene is thriving currently largely because there are few barriers to attracting talent and trading with the rest of the world. Like many other technology companies, Digital Shadows has been able to recruit from amongst the best in Europe and beyond – this has helped grow our business. This is particularly true for specialist technology jobs like data scientists. We need this to continue and a concern is that a less open relationship with Europe and the wider world will simply mean this talent goes and boosts an economy elsewhere.”

Education

Jacqueline de Rojas, Area Vice President, Northern Europe at Citrix said:

“The next government has the opportunity to put technology innovation at the heart of the policy-making agenda for the next five years. To deliver this vision it’s important to recognise that digital should stand at the forefront of policy creation and delivery – from improving education to transforming the health service, technology can enhance public services every step of the way.

“To achieve this, the next government must reverse the decline in young people taking courses such as science, maths and engineering, as well encourage more girls to choose these subjects as a career path. It needs to build a more connected society by improving standards of education so that more people can use online resources to gain access to education, secure jobs and improve their personal skills.

“Without vital investment and vision, Britain will suffer both economically and socially, should we fail to build a more connected, digital economy that can accelerate opportunity and enable us to play a key role on the world stage.”

Security and privacy

Keith Poyser, general manager of EMEA at Accelion

“Cyber security policies outlined in the three main political manifestos must take into account the evolving risks posed by the increasingly mobile world. All three manifestos call, in differing ways, for assuring that government security teams have access to the data they need, while also addressing the rights of the public for data privacy. Mobile computing broadens the range of data available for both security analysis and data privacy. GPS data, for example, can be invaluable for tracking and disarming security threats. It can also lead to an erosion of privacy. Policies will need to evolve to address both issues in the coming years.”

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