Local authorities and elected mayors must play a bigger role in digital development if the UK is to raise the profile of regional technology hubs, a technology trade association has recommended.

The report, published by techUK, said governments and mayors should “publish and regularly update their digital strategies” and central government should be given greater “accountability”.

The recommendation suggests that while local authorities are writing digital strategies, it is often unclear what actions should be taken by representatives of the local technology industry, which requires deeper and clearer collaboration with local authorities.

The rise was a key policy introduced by former prime minister Boris Johnson. While regional tech hubs have grown strongly over the past two years, London and the South East still dominate in many metrics such as attracting 81% of all UK venture capital investment.

‘Finance and investment regionally lags behind London’, notes techUK in 2022 Local Digital Capital Index Report. “There must be improved access to venture capital and angel investment, better signposts to support and test new proposals, such as the creation of new limited regional funding in partnership with elected mayors, focused on results and supporting vital national infrastructure.”

The report said devolution agreements could give regional governments and mayors more trade and investment powers to “help attract investment”.

The report goes on to say that relying on central government alone is ineffective and does not play into the favor of local authorities who “know their locality best” and know “where potential development will go, how it relates to the wider plan and who benefits from it “.

Investment zones should be “technological zones”

Another TechUK recommendation is support for investment zones, a policy proposed by former prime minister Liz Truss in her ill-fated mini-budget. This would result in certain areas receiving incentives such as lower taxes to encourage greater investment in local industry.

The trade association said technology should be at the heart of these investment zones, such as building infrastructure to test new technologies such as autonomous vehicles.

“Investment zones should also be ‘technological zones’ to attract people to work in them, to establish their businesses in them and to ensure new future investments,” the report notes.

Investment zone plan received mixed reactions from those in technology following its announcement.

The West Midlands, governed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and its mayor, Andy Street, recently announced that it will to appoint a technical commissioner. The role was created to champion the region’s technology sector and drive greater investment.

WMCA has submitted an application for investment zones in the region and says it could boost the regional economy by more than £4.7 billion a year and create 65,128 new jobs.