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Economy Economy

Support businesses developing digital technologies to manage national infrastructure

Last updated: 03:05pm 22 November 2019

We will step up our programme of support for businesses developing these new technologies, creating a better environment for them to be tested in the UK.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.81

Our verdict

In an increasingly digitised world, new technologies offer the possibility of greater efficiency and enhancements in many areas of life. This policy is a promise to support businesses which are developing technologies that can help “transform the management of our national infrastructure”. Specifically, the manifesto mentions digital improvements to railways, ‘smart’ electricity grids, and better management of airspace through technology. We’re looking for investment, strategies or initiatives to support businesses engaged in these areas.

Network Rail is the government-owned business responsible for looking after railways, and under this administration has been actioning a multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, part of which is the Digital Railway programme to deploy modern signalling and train control technology.

The Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan, published in July 2017, outlined the government’s strategy for delivering a smarter energy system. The Smart Systems Forum was created to help implement the plan, and members include “stakeholders in smart technologies, new business models and the energy system”. The October 2018 progress update on the plan lists many government actions to support businesses in its implementation.

Finally, the Airspace Modernisation Strategy, published in December 2018 “sets out the ends, ways and means of modernising airspace” and states that establishing the means of delivering the strategy “requires industry-led working groups”. In other words businesses will lead but they will be supported by government.

The strategies above all have government funding attached to them. With plans in place and initiatives being rolled out, it’s fair to say government has followed through on the promise to step up its programme of support. This policy is ‘done’.

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