General Election 2024 – what do scale-ups want to see?

The General Election will be on July 4, 2024, with political parties scrambling to get their policies together. What do high-growth firms want?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a General Election for July 4, 2024.

We asked the experts what would benefit SMEs and high-growth businesses. Here’s what they had to say.

Support for science and technology

Science and tech are two key areas in the growth and development of the UK economy. And as such, entrepreneurs want to see support for these vital industries.

Volodymyr Levykin, CEO and founder of Skyrora, said: “Skyrora would like to see investment in the space sector on the list of any government’s priorities. The innovative and intensive nature of the industry means that we require support from all levels – in the form of public and private investment – to ensure that the UK is a world leader in space.

“Unlocking space is key to unlocking a thriving economy and will also play an important role in the nation and its allies’ defence capabilities.”

Chris Bruce, chairman of Cambridge Tech Week, said: “Whichever government we have next will need to think carefully about how to support the science and technology communities and tech hubs. Cambridge and its deep tech research, development and entrepreneurship in areas like AI, quantum, semiconductors and new materials play a key role in growing our economy. It’s vital that the next government recognises this with policies and following action to match, to improve public services and create high skilled jobs that can power it forward.”

More support for the start-up ecosystem

Many business owners would agree that SMEs have been neglected over recent years, with very little help to tackle issues such as funding and investment.

Sarah Turner, Home Grown ambassador and Angel Academe CEO, commented: “For a start, it’s about time we saw better engagement with the startup ecosystem. During the Coalition Cameron years, entrepreneurs were in and out of Number 10, right at the heart of things and the engagement was high. It’s been remote and disjointed in recent times. I’d like to see an energetic government focused on the high-growth scene that truly listens.

“Support and investment for female entrepreneurs has been minimal and performative, so the next government needs to focus on turning words into action. They need to be encouraging corporates to buy more from female founded businesses and smaller companies generally. Corporates are sclerotic and let down their customers by not looking beyond a cosy cartel of suppliers. But it needs a carrot, not a stick, approach to make it attractive enough for big companies to act. For a long time, the US has supported buying from female and minority-owned businesses with tax breaks and other incentives; it’s time we followed.”

AI and innovation

We need to keep up in a rapidly-changing world and not rely on existing regulation for new issues. Peter Finnie, partner and patent attorney at Potter Clarkson, explains: “There is an urgent need to reform the law if we are to effectively deal with AI, including the patentability of AI-assisted innovation and fair use of publicly available data to train AI. OpenAI’s use of chatbot, Sky, and its similarities to Scarlett Johansson’s voice is a clear case in point.

“Experts have all agreed that there is little in the law that directly deals with the issues that are coming thick and fast, other than attempts to interpret outdated laws. This needs to change.”

His colleague, Mark Nichols, senior associate and IP solicitor at Potter Clarkson, agrees: “The government needs to balance desire with importance – we need to back AI and technology companies to grow the innovation space in the UK, whilst protecting against invasions of privacy and deepfakes, as well as the rights of creatives, and other human and corporate creators of original works. If we are to militate against the risk of growth in AI further damaging these sectors, then real action through legislation must happen.”

The importance of tech isn’t limited to the UK, either. Andriy Dovbenko, principal and founder of UK-Ukraine TechExchange, explains why: “What we have seen since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine is global instability, from food scarcity to soaring fuel and energy prices. Peace in the region requires funding and innovation, and whichever government is elected on July 4 must invest in technology (and the companies spearheading this) that will help achieve and maintain security.”

Pension investments

Finally, a word on pension investment from David Holt, partner and IP Solicitor at Potter Clarkson: “There is an increasing feeling that the Mansion House Reforms, which have been such a focus for the current government, do not go far enough to unlock the potential of pension investments. More reforms in this space are needed if the UK is to keep its competitive edge.”

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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