In November 2018, Onward launched a major series of events to consider how the UK can best exploit emerging technologies, Harnessing the technologies of tomorrow. The series brings together Government ministers with leading entrepreneurs, global technology firms, academics and journalists to explore how to make the UK the best place to research, develop, scale and invest in technology, while also ensuring a safe environment for consumers, citizens and clients. The series will feed into a major research project that Onward will conduct in 2019 on a similar theme.
Everywhere we look, the flywheel of technological change is accelerating and its effects felt. After decades of unrealised potential, artificial intelligence is finally on the cusp of truly societal impact; new platform technologies are opening up entirely new consumer experiences; energy technology offers cheaper, cleaner, better supply; while innovations in processing hardware and connectivity are transforming the speed of computing.
This second machine age promises vast benefits, many of which the UK is well-placed to exploit. Drawing on an illustrious intellectual tradition that takes in Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing and Tim Berners-Lee, the UK is a world-leading centre of technological innovation and investment. In the last five years, UK-based technology companies received £28 billion in venture and private equity funding – as much as France, Germany and the Netherlands combined.
But Britain’s position is far from secure, as other countries, especially China, the US and France, ramp up investment and reform tax and regulatory environments. Furthermore, the social impact of technological progress is increasingly visible and disruptive in the labour market, democratic institutions and on the high street.
The challenge for policymakers is twofold: to make the UK the world’s foremost economy to research, develop and scale transformative technologies, while also designing policy and regulatory responses that protects from unintended harms.
The series is made possible by the generous support of Sensyne Health Ltd, Google, Salesforce, Vodafone and Prudential.
1. AI and Healthcare, with Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
This roundtable, held on 26 November, considered how artificial intelligence and machine learning can deliver for patients: bringing quicker, more accurate diagnosis, more personalised care and lower costs to the taxpayer. We explored what more the NHS can do to open up to innovative technology, how data should be managed safely, and how to encourage more UK based investment and R&D.
2. Light speed: How 5G and full fibre can unlock Britain’s internet of things revolution, with Margot James MP, Minister for Digital
This roundtable, on 10 January, will discuss Britain’s digital infrastructure and how to radically improve access to high-speed connectivity to support industry and communities. We will hear from the 5G test bed in the West Midlands, discuss the Government’s plans for fibre spines using public service assets and spectrum, and consider how 5G and fibre can support regional growth in particular.
3. Capitalism rewired: Unleashing new models of finance, innovation and regulation through technology, with John Glen MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury
This event will focus on Britain’s successful fintech and regtech sectors and the role of policymakers, regulators and industry bodies in creating the most sympathetic environment for growth and innovation. We will explore how best to support financial literacy, improve lending risk judgement and drive up quality of service using technology, as well as how technology can help in identifying fraud, error and criminal activity in our financial system.
4. GovTech: Transforming public services through tech, Oliver Dowden MP, GovTech Minister, Cabinet Office
This roundtable will explore how start-ups and technology firms can support government and public services. We will explore the role of G Cloud, GDS and the government’s wider procurement architecture in bringing innovation into government, and how it could be improved, and how use of government data alongside cutting edge technologies might support a new wave of responsive services for taxpayers and citizens.
5. Virtually everything: building an ecosystem for Voice, VR and AR, with Chris Skidmore MP, Minister for Research, Science and Universities
This roundtable will focus on the opportunities and challenges surrounding new platforms and immersive technologies, including virtual, augmented and mixed reality, as well as voice and other assisted technologies. We will discuss how best to capitalise on the UK’s competitive advantage in immersive technology, how to best regulate these emerging industries and where the next platforms will come from.
6. Harnessing the technologies of tomorrow reception, in No.11 Downing Street, with Rt Hon Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer
On 29 January, Onward host a major reception in No11 Downing Street, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to celebrate Onward’s series and explore how to make the UK the best place in the world to develop, invest in and use emerging technology.
For more information on the series, please contact Katie Fairclough on [email protected]