The right wing think tank Policy Exchange has published a report that says that the UK could become a world centre for hi-tech industry if it makes considerable improvements to its education results in relevant subjects and adopts innovative policies to foster hi-tech industries such as granting probationary visas to international graduates in hi-tech subjects.
The report says that, if the UK wants to become a leading player in the digital economy, it must greatly improve the standard of its education system in the STEM subjects; science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
At present, the UK is performing poorly in STEM education. The number of UK students studying the STEM subjects in UK universities remained unchanged at around 11,500 from 2002 until 2010, at a time when the importance of those subjects to the economy has increased. The report says that the UK must improve outcomes from its STEM education system and train UK graduates capable of contributing to the growth of UK hi-tech businesses.
However, the UK has a resource which can help it develop a world beating hi-tech sector quickly, even before it has trained sufficient home-grown talent.
The UK attracts many talented students from around the world to study at its universities. Not only do these students provide many billions in revenue to UK plc, they can also help the country gain an advantage in the growing hi-tech sector. The UK now attracts 18,000 students who study STEM subjects annually. These students must be encouraged to remain in the UK which will make it easier for hi-tech business start-ups find the talent they will need to compete on the world stage.
The Policy Exchange report, entitled Bits and Billions, recommends that the UK should make adjustments to its points-based visa system to ensure that talented STEM graduates are given the chance to work in UK, hi-tech, start-up companies. This would see the hi-tech sector developing quickly. There are currently 18,000 overseas students studying in the UK who could, if granted Tier 2 skilled worker visas, enable the UK to surge ahead.
The report says that the rules could be relaxed to enable these students to be granted a two-year probationary tier 2 visas. In order to keep costs down, the requirement to pay high salaries would be removed. The report also recommends the reintroduction of a two year post study visa for those who have achieved good grades in degrees in STEM subjects. This would enable students to work in the UK and contribute to the nascent hi-tech economy.
The author of the report, Chris Yiu, said 'start-ups need to be able to take on the right people fast, not spend months trying to expand their technology teams'. Among other innovations suggested in the report, are adjustments to the Capital Gains Tax regime and the 'Silicon Superstar' scheme which would see large UK companies seconding STEM graduate employees to work for hi-tech start-up companies in return for stock in the companies.
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