David Cameron’s Internet of Things investment could unlock business opportunities.
The government has set out to create hundreds of new British tech jobs as it commits £45m to fuelling innovation around the Internet of Things (IoT).
Prime Minister David Cameron has tasked a newly created quango with creating 500 tech roles over the next two years, as well as attracting £1bn of international and private sector investment.
The UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Innovation Gateway will become a ‘one-stop shop’ for securing funding to bolster the UK’s £58bn tech sector, and adding to the 1.3 million-strong workforce.
Speaking at this month’s CeBIT technology trade fair, Cameron said: "The UK tech scene today is dynamic. Relentlessly ambitious. It is our ambition to make the UK the most digital nation in the G8 and it is my mission to show the world that we’re getting there."
While UKTI declined an interview request from CBR, UKTI minister Lord Livingston said he hoped Britain’s software, apps and IT services markets would attract the foreign investment.
He said: "Our aim is to grow investment in the UK innovation and tech sector.
"We are launching a new organisation targeting international businesses that want to take advantage of UK excellence and invest here. We have the leading market for software and IT services in Europe, the largest network of Wi-Fi hotspots and one of the biggest app markets."
Some of the jobs could come from another of Cameron’s initiatives announced at CeBIT – an extra £45m in funding for Internet of Things (IoT) innovation, bringing the total pot of cash available up to £73m.
The money will be distributed by another quango, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), through investments of £18.5m in a programme to fund the creation of smart cities, £5m in location-based services, £4m in transforming digital health services and another £4m for freight transport.
Gartner has predicted there will be nearly 26 billion connected devices come 2020, and TSB’s head of digital, Nick Appleyard, said the investment should put Britain at the forefront of innovation in the area.
He told CBR: "There’s a great upwelling of ideas and experimentation from the startup community. The opportunities for startups and larger firms are around the public’s engagement with the city, what the public want to know about in their daily lives and how those services could be presented to them via mobile devices."
And he confirmed a lot of the opportunity for big data companies rested around cities being willing to open up their data to them.
"The city authorities need to be collaborative," he said. "If you’re going to build some sort of service around the operation of the transport system, for instance, you need to be able to get data about the operation of that system."
The government is also launching a £1m IoT funding competition designed to support European startups based in Shoreditch’s Tech City and Cambridge.
Appleyard confirmed the areas were chosen for their status as "hotspots" of development in the hardware and software required for IoT devices, as well as providing big data-based services around them.
Tim Seears, CTO of Big Data Partnership, based in Old Street, said the investment in IoT could provide significant opportunities for his company.
"This is huge," he said. "It’s vitally important – these tech clusters house some of the only UK-based expertise in this field.
"Big Data Partnership already has proven experience in areas like real-time traffic flow monitoring, and a strong track record in delivering the most cutting edge solutions, so we’re confident we will play a central role with initiatives like smart cities."
The UK wants to work with Germany to come to the forefront of the IoT phenomenon, Cameron said at CeBIT.
The government also plans to co-operate with Germany on creating 5G, powerful enough to download a film in less than a second.
King’s College University and the University of Surrey will collaborate on this development with the University of Dresden, while the UK’s Spectrum Strategy outlines British hopes to squeeze £100bn of value from spectrum by 2025.
This includes releasing public sector-owned spectrum to the private sector firms covering broadcasters, telecoms firms and radio companies, with 500MHz scheduled to be sold by 2020.