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Tech firms, come to Blighty! Everything is brill! Brexit schmexit, Galileo schmalileo

Desperate times at Downing Street

The UK government has given itself a reassuring cuddle this week, asserting that – even if high-profile projects such as Galileo march overseas – international tech firms still love Blighty.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May held a roundtable event yesterday to showcase Britain as the best place in the world to run a tech company, despite or because of (depending where you stand) its imminent departure from the European Union.

To back up its assertion, the government pointed to CRM botherer and almost Microsoft acquisition Salesforce, which announced plans to shovel £2.5bn into the UK over the next five years and open a second data centre in 2019. Also mentioned were Mubadala, which plans to launch a £300m investment fund based in the UK, and NTT, which will be spanking £41m on a new office, creating, erm, 200 jobs.

The government trotted out statistics claiming that 2.1 million people are currently employed in the digital economy, with a new job being created every 50 minutes, according to data from Dealroom and Tech Nation. The Tech Nation 2018 report is rammed full of good news and features a foreword by, er, Theresa May.

With Amazon bumping up its UK workforce by 10 per cent with 2,500 new jobs, 650 of which will be in software development rather than putting stuff in boxes, the government feels bullish. Downing Street went on to point out that British tech business attracted $7.8bn of funding, compared to a combined total of $6bn for France and Germany.

The UK is typically the largest tech spending nation in Europe, and was always seen as a beachead into the continent for US or Asian firms that wanted to build business in the region.

However, the UK may relinquish that crown before long, with its erstwhile continental partners eyeing a slice of Britain's tech sector while circling space and aerospace work from which UK industry will be excluded.

AI will save us all

The government has also bet big on artificial intelligence, trumpeting a £1bn artificial intelligence sector deal as part of its Industrial Strategy. Business secretary Greg Clark told the AI Summit: "AI is at the centre of a thriving digital tech sector now worth £184bn to the UK economy. Tech-related investments in Britain surged nearly 90 per cent last year, more than in France, Germany and Sweden combined."

Clarke went on to invoke the ghost of Alan Turing, extolling the man's intellectual achievements for the UK. He did not, however, mention Turing's fate at the hands of the British state. Doing so might have cast a shadow on the day's excitement. ®

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