Today the UK government has announced the formation of a new department that will focus on science, innovation and technology.
The move is part of a government reshuffle — previously these policy areas jointly were handled by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The government hopes that the changes will help it achieve Rishi Sunak's five key goals — which include growing the economy.
The new minister for the department is Michelle Donelan — who until now has been serving as secretary of state for DCMS. Donelan has previously held roles in the Department for Education and the Treasury, and before going into politics worked in marketing roles at UK lifestyle magazine Marie Claire and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
The move seems to be going down well among the UK’s startup community. Dom Hallas — executive director at the Coalition for a Digital Economy, a policy group for startups — tells Sifted that the move will be good for entrepreneurs.
“The creation of the new Department of Science, Innovation & Technology is good for British tech startups,” he says. “There’s always been the need for a real innovation voice in Whitehall and bringing together the research and funding from BEIS with the digital policymaking experience from DCMS makes real sense.”
It’s no surprise that startups will be relieved that more focused political energy will be going towards young tech businesses.
Deeptech companies are still reeling from an announcement that the government would cut tax credits for research and development, which had become an important financial lifeline for research-heavy startups.
One deeptech investor tells Sifted that decisions like this were evidence of a lack of long-term thinking from the UK government: “What has been missing is a longer term strategic view. In terms of deeptech commercialisation, and then growth, you're talking about 10-year plus journeys — so you have to have that continuity [of support schemes]. Otherwise, you're just pulling the plug from these companies just as they're starting to get traction. And that long-term vision is what's really been missing.”
Entrepreneurs will be hoping that this new government department will be able to make that case for a long-term vision for the next generation of technology companies.