Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister who bagged the generous name of “Dishy Rishy” for his discount meal scheme during the pandemic, has become the UK’s new Prime Minister – and the tech community seems cautiously hopeful.
After Lizz Truss’ less-than-triumphant 44-day failure of taking the reigns from disgraced Boris Johnson, candidates had until 2pm on Monday to secure the support of 100 conservatives to take their place as the new UK leader.
Johnson dramatically pulled out of the contest on Sunday, which left Sunak competing with Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt.
As of this morning, Rishi Sunak was the only one to have met the necessary requirement of 100 nominations – making him the next leader of Britain.
How has Rishi Sunak impacted the UK tech industry so far?
Sunak used his time as chancellor of the Exchequer to push through some policies that had an impact on the UK tech industry.
Back in June, Sunak announced the UK’s new digital strategy. It aimed to create jobs, as well as boost talent and the country’s tech infrastructure. At the time, Sunak claimed the new strategy will help it keep the tech sector “fit for the future.”
The former finance minister also announced a new expert council to help tackle the country’s digital skills gap, as well as a review of the UK’s computer processing capabilities.
He also outlined a Future of Compute Review, which looked at pushing the potential for artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the internet of things.
Tech experts remain mostly hopeful for industry with Rishi Sunak in power
The reaction of the UK tech community to Sunak moving into No 10 has been fairly hopeful. Some have noted the former finance minister’s previous pledge to make the UK a technology superpower and put innovation at the heart of his government.
“[Sunak] is considered to be very pro-tech. He has spoken out in favour of the tech industry and has said that he wants to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a tech business,” Josh Wood, founder and CEO of social events app Bloc, tells Verdict.
Wood says Sunak is going to invest more money into research and development, making it easier for startups to get funding and also create a stronger talent pipeline. He also wants to increase access to broadband and improve digital skills education.
Some believe that the new PM’s experience and knowledge of financial markets will help the tech industry raise funds. While some say that getting away from political instability will lead to more technological advancements and investments.
“Sunak’s understanding of financial markets and the economy should strengthen market confidence, improving things for companies in general,” Amanda Brock, CEO at not-for-profit open technology advocacy company OpenUK, tellsVerdict.
As well as technological advancement, some experts expect Sunak to help close the UK’s digital divide, as well as improve the country’s position in the global market.
“We expect the new PM and the selected cabinet to continue to prioritise the necessary actions needed to not only improve the UK’s position in the market, but also make strides towards closing the digital divide through greater policy,” Maria Lema, co-founder of Weaver Labs, tells Verdict.
Lema adds that the “entire tech industry expects stability – something we haven’t had in a very long time.”
Although experts are looking forward with positivity to the new future, some experts remain firm on the improvements that they feel the UK technology industry needs.
Alexa Greaves, CEO of IT support company AAG, tells Verdict: “As a UK Tech leader, I hope to see additional funding and resources allocated for emerging technologies within the sector. Government-led projects and funding in areas such as AI and the Internet of Things would cement the UK’s position as a global leader in tech.”
Greaves also noted that cybersecurity remains a “significant concern for both businesses and individuals.”
“Without continued investment and the development of UK cyber talent, we risk falling behind other G7 nations,” Greaves said, the UK is already sorely lacking in cybercrime protection, with the highest number of cybercrime victims in the world per million internet users.”
“Rishi Sunak is good for crypto”
Bitcoin boffins are also feeling hopeful for Sunak’s leadership. Crypto managed to hold up well during Truss’ short stint as PM, following her formed government pledging to embrace all opportunities around cryptocurrency. Some experts believe this outlook will continue with Sunak who has “always been on the side of innovation”.
“Rishi Sunak is good for crypto,” Martin Hiesboeck, head of blockchain and crypto research at Uphold, tells Verdict. “If his leadership continues like his track record shows, he has always been on the side of innovation. One would expect the path to regulatory clarity to be significantly shorter with him at the helm.”
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