Tech Secretary strips back red tape to unleash innovation in clean aviation, drones and autonomous marine tech


NEW PLANS for the safe, proportionate regulation of high-potential technologies like clean aviation, and drones, as well as a boost to the Government’s investor partnership programme for high potential UK science and tech businesses, have been announced at the Global Investment Summit today (Monday 27 November) by the Science and Technology Secretary.

Following on from the announcement of new regulatory sandboxes at the Autumn Statement, three further sandboxes and testbeds will help UK firms and researchers developing hydrogen as a zero emission fuel for aviation, as well as exploring the use of drones in passenger transport and deliveries, plus putting self-piloting marine tech to work. The sandboxes and testbeds will see innovators and regulators work together to safely test new technologies. Taking this flexible, pragmatic approach to regulation can help to reduce barriers for innovators and help regulators to improve their decision-making processes.

The Government’s ambition to unlock greater investment in UK R&D is taking a further step forward, with the naming of 29 new partners to the Investor Partnerships programme. Previous investor partnership programmes unlocked more than £370 million in private partner backing. DSIT, through Innovate UK, is investing over £110 million together with private investors to drive vital cash into scaling-up UK businesses that are putting game changing technologies into action to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from climate change to healthcare.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan said:

“From the steam engine and Jenner’s first vaccine, through to modern computers and the wonder-material graphene, brilliant British ideas have and continue to change the world. The untold story behind each of these breakthroughs is that of the investors, whose backing enabled genius ideas to spring to life out of the lab, and into the world.

“We know that unlocking investment is critical, if we are to seize the potential for science and tech breakthroughs to create new jobs and industries, grow the economy, and tackle problems from health to energy. That is precisely why we are deepening our links with private investors to help UK businesses scale-up, deepening the UK’s skills base, and working with the sector to build proportionate regulations that encourage innovation, and keep people safe.”

Game-changing new technologies and scientific innovations are front and centre at the Global Investment Summit, which is showcasing the pioneering companies across the country that make the UK one of the world’s most attractive investment destinations. They range from established global giants with significant presences in the UK, like Alphabet and Arm, to exciting newer businesses like Oxford Quantum Circuits and Birmingham University spin-out, Delta-G.

The expansion of the Innovate UK Investor Partnership Programme, working with investors such as Amadeus Capital and Anglo-American, is the Government’s latest push to bring innovative small and medium-sized UK companies together with investors, to support them to take their businesses to the next level. The 15 investor partnership programmes that ran between 2017 and 2022 unlocked £42.8 million in grant funding for UK SMEs, £123 million in aligned equity investment, and a further £373m in additional investment from private partners.

The Government is deploying regulatory sandboxes as part of its commitment to seize the potential for frontier technologies like AI to create entirely new industries and jobs. It is essential to strike the right balance: regulation that is pro-innovation, stimulates demand for science and technology and attracts investment, while representing UK values and safeguarding citizens.

It follows the announcement of the Automated Vehicles Bill in the King’s Speech this month, to put safety at the heart of the roll-out of self-driving vehicle technology – ensuring smarter regulation and positioning the UK as world-leaders of a £42 billion industry.

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