Impact lift as Hancock backs good tech

Amid a raft of announcements, the government this week committed to bringing impact investment into the mainstream – and digital secretary Matt Hancock added his support to more tech for good. Julian Blake reports.

matt hancockIt’s been quite a week for tech announcements from the government. A £2.5bn boost in patient capital investment, 1,600 new jobs and a reboot of the entrepreneurial startup visa all came out as Theresa May brought tech business into Downing Street for London Tech Week.

The patient capital boost, first unveiled in last November’s budget, is designed in part to replace funds from the European Investment Bank post Brexit. It is expected to attract a further £5bn in private investment to support ventures with high-growth potential.

A new entrepreneur startup visa will launch next spring, giving accelerators a new role in the endorsement of candidates and replacing a graduate visa route – though it is not yet clear how many new visas will be available. Digital secretary Matt Hancock described the move as “akin to a Dragon’s Den for visas”.

Speaking at TechXLR8 at London’s ExCeL on Wednesday, Hancock also welcomed the arrival of more tech for good – including technology to solve some of the problems of tech itself.

Welcoming moves like Apple’s new smartphone addiction tools, he said “we have to both mitigate the harms on social media and the challenges at the same time as being incredibly enthusiastic about the future of tech and the power of tech for good”.

“We have to make sure that the Ai ethics are right. I strongly believe that this isn’t a trade-off between ethical architecture and high levels of innovation,” he added.

Other government news this week suggested that the penny may be dropping on investing for good purpose.

On Tuesday the government confirmed that departments across Whitehall will support the launch of more social impact investment funds and work with the financial services industry to make it easier for people to invest in the things they care about.

The commitment came in response to an industry-led report, Growing a Culture of Social Impact Investment in the UK, which recommended better deal flow and the ability to invest at scale, alongside new ways to help people invest in line with their values.

s300_Title_GOVUKEconomic secretary to the Treasury John Glen said: “Investing can and should be a force for good, and it’s vital that industry and government work together to make it easy for people to invest in the causes they care about.

“Social impact investing is brimming with potential and we are encouraging firms to develop products to meet the rising demand, while championing the industry’s potential to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

In a further announcement on Wednesday, the government confirmed that Roger Taylor, chair of Ofqual and founder of healthcare data venture Dr Foster, will chair the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. The appointment will be accompanied by a consultation on the role of the centre.