UK International Technology Strategy – a technology superpower by 2030?

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UK International Technology Strategy – a technology superpower by 2030?

Published 11 abril 2023

Rishi Sunak’s Government wants to make the UK a “science and technology superpower” by 2030. However, increased activity from nefarious actors and other geopolitical dynamics have contributed to significant regulatory, commercial, and technological risks – and the UK cannot tackle these challenges alone. Given the importance of increased international cooperation on issues relating to technology and the online ecosystem, the recently established Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (“DSIT”, formed in February 2023) published a new International Technology Strategy (“Strategy”) on 22 March 2023.

DAC Beachcroft’s technology, media, and regulatory lawyers have been keeping a close eye on developments in this area, and in this article, Kelsey Farish and Alistair Cooper provide an overview of 10 interesting takeaways from the Strategy.

All quotations included throughout the below are derived directly from the Strategy, which you can access and download from the website, here.

  1. Four core principles – “Open”, “Responsible”, “Secure”, and “Resilient” – have been identified by Government as fundamental to the international systems the UK Government wishes to support. The Strategy asserts that adherence to these principles will help to bolster international influence and the economic benefits derived from technology, while “promoting democracy, stability, personal freedom and privacy internationally.”

  2. Five priority technologies – artificial intelligence (AI), quantum technologies, engineering biology, semiconductors and future telecoms – are listed as the principal technological areas of concern. The approach championed by the current Government is to focus primarily on technologies where the UK has “significant existing strength or potential, or where technologies are most disruptive and vital” to national security. This is in line with the Cabinet Office’s Integrated Review Refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world (policy paper here).

  3. The technology sector is fundamental to the UK economy, and has recently surpassed a valuation of $1 trillion (approx. £800 billion) to become the third highest in the world. To maximise this trend, the Strategy calls upon Government to “promote the UK as the best place for technology companies to raise capital and attract foreign direct investment.” Venture capital is singled out as an important means to encourage inward investment into UK businesses, with DSIT committing to “target world-leading VCs to set up offices and funds in the UK.” That said, the Strategy also notes that Government must mitigate national security risks arising from foreign direct investment in emerging technologies, for example through use of the National Security and Investment Act 2021.

  4. Bilateral and multilateral partnerships with “like-minded nations such as the United States, Japan and Australia” are hoped to promote open, responsible, and secure uses of technologies, especially those named as priority technologies (see above). The Strategy calls for the UK to play a more active role through international projects such as OECD’s Global Forum on Technology and NATO’s Emerging and Disruptive Technology Strategy, as well as including utilising the UK seat on the Council of the International Telecommunication Union. Specific initiatives including the U.S.-UK Declaration on Cooperation in AI R&D, as well as defence and security pacts like AUKUS, are also mentioned as key opportunities to expand upon.

  5. Brexit notwithstanding, partnerships with the EU at the transnational level, and with individual European allies at the national level, are mentioned as important to the UK’s international technology ambitions. The Strategy points to the agreed data transfer provisions with the EU and the European Economic Area, as well as the landmark Digital Trade chapter with the EU in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. These provisions are intended to “facilitate digital trade [and] to ensure an open, secure and trustworthy online environment for businesses and consumers”.

  6. Autocratic regimes and the suppression of human rights are a significant concern stated throughout the Strategy. Although specific threats are not mentioned by reference to nation or leader, the Strategy argues that “autocratic regimes use technology to gain advantage in the world, suppress freedoms domestically and export authoritarian precepts”. Amongst other things, Government hope that international cooperation on technological development will help to embed the regulations, norms and standards used to “promote democracy and counter digital authoritarianism.”

  7. Ethical frameworks and parameters are likely to inform future legislation and policy making, as DSIT recognises that “the way in which technology is governed will have huge implications for [the UK’s] prosperity, safety, security and society.” This is especially true when considering the future of AI, quantum, and engineering biology regulation. For example, there is currently insufficient evidence about the impact of AI decision making on individuals, and important societal questions remain surrounding trust in such systems. Likewise, biological engineering has a wide range of implications for advancements in agriculture and food security, but there are considerable obstacles on the road to commercialisation, including trials for human suitability.

  8. Effective supply chains, especially those relating to semiconductors, are crucially important to the future of the UK’s technology ambitions. Semiconductors are widely known to be essential pieces of tech for mobile phones and automobiles, but they are also used in next-generation technological areas such as net zero, quantum, 6G and AI: the Strategy goes so far as to state that semiconductor supply chain disruption “could cause risks to life or national security.” However, as the global semiconductor shortage has shown, the complexity involved in the manufacturing process means “that no government will be able to fully mitigate [semiconductor supply] risks alone, making international cooperation with key governments and companies crucial.”

  9. Blockchain technology and its applications in decentralised finance is becoming increasingly integrated into everyday life, as more and more people turn to cryptocurrencies to facilitate financial transactions. DLTs such as blockchain are therefore noted as an important focus area of Government’s national security strategy, namely with regard to online security and resilience to cyberattacks. Government therefore hopes to leverage “cyber diplomacy”, which will include expanding the UK’s international network of cyber (and technology) officers, cyber-security capacity building programmes and cross-government cyber and technology dialogues.

  10. Intellectual property rights enforcement is a main theme throughout the Strategy, and is an essential component to the core principle of “secure”. So that UK industry can more efficiently collaborate with trusted partners to develop and commercialise technology, DSIT has called upon Government to work closely on international intellectual property rights enforcement and recognition, to ensure that “UK companies reap the greatest commercial advantage” from their IP assets. This is especially important in the context of cross-border R&D collaboration in areas such as quantum, AI, and bioengineering.

DAC Beachcroft’s team of specialist technology and media lawyers is one of the largest in the United Kingdom. Our work ranges from assisting scaling technology companies with fundraising to large-scale outsourcing contracts for international corporates, as well as specialist business advisory work in blockchain and cryptoassets, health technology, digital media, and AI businesses.

To discuss this article or to obtain more information on DAC Beachcroft’s technology practice, please contact the authors or Tim Ryan, partner and head of DAC Beachcroft’s national technology and media team


Kelsey Farish

Kelsey Farish

London - Walbrook

+44 (0) 20 7894 6320

Alistair Cooper

Alistair Cooper

London - Walbrook

+44(0)20 7894 6967

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