In 2021, the UK tech sector achieved its best year ever, with a record number of unicorns created, more futurecorns formed, and increased VC investment. Start-ups and scale-ups raised an impressive £29.4 billion – a 2.3-fold increase on last year’s figures – and UK tech took a third of the total £89.5 billion of investment that flowed into the European tech ecosystem.
The tech industry is critical to the job creation, productivity and growth of most countries. For example, tech vacancies currently account for around 1 in 8 of all available jobs in the UK. Although the sector’s rapid rise offers great socio-economic opportunities, it is crucial that this growth takes place in a safe and responsible manner.
For some years now, the pervasive nature of technology has been a growing cause for concern. For example, many have criticised the lack of transparency around how personal data is being used, stored and shared. Data privacy issues came to the fore in 2018 following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when the personal data of millions of Facebook users was collected by the consulting firm without their consent and used to assist in the 2016 US presidential campaigns and Brexit referendum. Suspicions that voice-activated devices are listening into our conversations and the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI) have only added to these concerns.
Greater regulation is generally viewed as the solution to this problem. For example, an Amnesty International poll conducted by YouGov recently revealed that 7 in 10 people want governments to do more to regulate Big Tech over personal data fears. Regulation has the power to reduce the harm caused by online platforms, protect people and businesses, and bring about greater transparency. As the World Trade Organisation put it, regulation can ‘promote markets which are fair, efficient, orderly and clean’.
However, it is also important not to overregulate the tech industry to the point that it stifles innovation, entrepreneurship and business growth. Chris Philp MP, the UK’s Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy, recently discussed this during a speech at the Digital City Festival in Manchester. He spoke of the need to take a proportional approach to regulation, ensuring that it protects consumers and strengthens trust in the digital economy, whilst also allowing tech innovation to thrive and grow. To illustrate this, Philp pointed to how the overregulation of Genetically Modified Organisms by the EU had hindered innovation in Europe, resulting in most GMO innovation taking place in the US.
Roman Semiokhin is a successful businessman and philanthropist who has had a long career in the tech sector. His love for IT was evident from an early age, when he would spend long periods playing on a Sega game console, and this later led him to launch a computer club and other tech-focused businesses. Semiokhin appreciates that regulation is important to the technology sector’s future direction and success, and wants to ensure the right conditions are in place for the industry to flourish.