11 April 2023

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has published an International Technology Strategy (“ITS23”) setting out plans for the UK to become a technology superpower by 2030. ITS23 forms part of the wider Science and Technology (S&T) Framework, under which the Government announced £370 million funding to put the UK at the forefront of global science and technology. ITS23 is also partly in response to issues raised in the recent Integrated Review 2023, which set out the Government’s security, defence, development and foreign policy priorities.


ITS23 contains the roadmap which will be used to build on the UK’s existing strengths in its technology sector, which is currently the largest in Europe and the third highest valued globally, after the US and China. In 2022, the UK technology industry was estimated to be worth more than $1tr and home to the fourth largest number of tech unicorns globally, with more than 85,000 active start-ups and scale-ups.

The Government recognises the wide-ranging opportunities that technological development brings but is also conscious that the current geopolitical climate is increasingly adversarial, with technology being used for harm and leading to emerging threats such as cyberattacks and the theft of intellectual property. This was highlighted and expanded upon in the Integrated Review 2023, which identified that authoritarian regimes are using technology as a tool of oppression.

The Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said: ‘Now more than ever, it is important that the UK steps up to promote British tech excellence worldwide and takes a stand against the malign influences that seek to use tech against us. That is why we’ve announced this strategy, helping to deliver on our ambition to be a tech superpower by 2030, backing UK businesses and helping us solve the challenges of tomorrow through innovation and international collaboration.”

Key principles

ITS23 is underpinned by four key principles, which aim to strengthen the UK’s international influence, reap the economic benefits of technology and promote democracy, stability, personal freedom and privacy on an international level:

1. Open – promotion of the design, development and use of technologies which support personal freedom and democratic values and champion standards which enable innovation, data free flow with trust, exchange of ideas, and trade.

2. Responsible – government support of the design, development and use of technologies which support sustainable growth and are consistent with the rule of law and human rights. Data will be used responsibly, in a way that is lawful, protected, ethical and accountable.

3. Secure – technologies and data sharing systems will be made secure by design so they are safe and predictable. Using tools to protect the UK against threats to national security and a secure environment will be created for technology to flourish. Personal privacy and property rights, including intellectual property, will be safeguarded.

4. Resilient – technology will be made reliable so it can be trusted by the public and so that UK innovation and critical systems are protected and a stronger UK and safer world is promoted by applying proportionate controls on sensitive technology.

Strategic priorities

The Government has identified six priorities through which to deliver ITS23, each of which are underpinned by ‘key policy levers’ and ‘highest-priority actions’:

  • Priority technologies and data. Critical technologies have been identified as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum technology, semiconductors, telecommunications, and engineering biology. Building strategic advantage in these areas will ensure the UK is world-leading.
  • International partnerships for global leadership. Supporting shared growth and addressing global challenges.
  • Values-based governance and regulation. Promoting the UK’s principles and vision for a future technology order that benefits all by working with partners and through international fora to shape governance.
  • Technology investment and expertise for the developing world. Building capacity to bridge the technology divide and support partners to make informed choices.
  • Technology to drive the UK economy. Continuing to drive UK technology exports and promote the UK as the best place for technology companies to raise capital and attract foreign direct investment.
  • Protecting our security interests. Ensuring that sensitive technology does not fall into hostile hands and that critical technology capabilities are retained in the UK.

Priority technologies

ITS23 sets out priority technologies (identified in the Integrated Review 2023) based on significant existing strengths or potential and where their application is most disruptive and vital to national security. Advancements made in these areas will be based on the key principles set out above and guided by top international priorities:


International priorities

1) Artificial intelligence (AI)

· Deliver the National AI Strategy.

· Deliver the UK’s Defence AI Strategy which sets out the UK’s approach to championing the safe and responsible development of AI internationally in support of defence objectives.

· Champion the development and deployment of responsible AI including through the UK’s AI Standards Hub to shape AI technical standards in development organisations.

· Play a leading role in prominent multilateral organisations on AI topics, including the OECD, Council of Europe and the UN, and strengthen engagement with multi stakeholder groups such as GPAI.

· Initiate an inclusive international dialogue on the current and future risks presented by AI.

2) Quantum technology

· Implement the National Quantum Strategy which builds on the world-leading strengths of the National Quantum Technologies Programme.

· Collaborate and share expertise with international partners on the opportunities, challenges and key uses of quantum such as Net Zero.

· Drive progress in quantum R&D by deepening collaboration with international partners and continuing to participate in leading multilateral research partnerships globally.

· Lead global governance on the risks and opportunities of quantum.

3) Semiconductors

· Deliver the forthcoming UK Semiconductor Strategy.

· Work to improve resilience across dependent supply chains.

· Expand and deepen collaboration with like-minded international partners in the semiconductor sector, drawing on respective strengths to increase skills cooperation, enhance industry and academia links, and develop R&D partnerships.

4) Engineering biology

· Identify and support opportunities for international collaboration.

· Lead the global ethics and responsible innovation debate by e.g. playing an active role in multilateral fora, such as the OECD.

· Drive international technical standards, sector-specific regulations and conventions for the safe and reliable uptake and commercialisation of engineering biology.

5) Telecommunications

· Demonstrate UK leadership on a global stage by focussing on the development of openness and interoperability in telecoms networks.

· Build on the UK-led joint statement on telecoms supplier diversity, issued alongside Australia, Canada and the US in December 2022.

· Expand and deepen international collaboration with key partners on future telecoms.

· Harness international partnerships and collaborative R&D to develop global markets for export.

· Attract investment into the UK to contribute to the diversification of the UK’s telecoms supply chain.

· Create telecoms standards to promote quality, innovation and security

6) Data

· Legislate to reform the UK’s data protection regime.

· Work to secure data bridges between the UK and priority countries and design alternative transfer mechanisms.

· Develop standards, mechanisms and initiatives to encourage responsible data sharing and availability, including through data anonymisation and Privacy Enhancing Technologies.

· Promote action across multilateral fora to remove unjustified data localisation measures and other barriers to the free flow of data, and seek commitments to this end in free trade agreements.

· Shape the global debate on interoperability of data regulatory frameworks to address international fragmentation, and support regulatory cooperation with priority countries.

· Pursue and develop, with like-minded countries, shared global principles on trusted government access.

Priority actions

In order to harness the benefits that come with rapid technological developments, the UK will take a proactive approach to shaping existing and emerging technologies. The Government will draw on industry, finance, academia and civil society and will create stronger links with technology companies in order to provide thought leadership and tackle global challenges. Priority actions that have been identified include:

  • creating a new Technology Centre of Expertise to support sustainable economic growth around the world. The first pilots will run later this year and will bring together technology and digital experts from the government, private sector, and academia to support countries to transform their economies sustainably and inclusively through innovation;
  • expanding HMG’s Technology Envoy Network. The Government has already piloted the idea with its first tech envoy Joe White, who boosted ties between the UK and Silicon Valley and another one has been announced for Indo-Pacific;
  • championing the OECD Global Forum on Technology. This will involve engaging with the international community on how to better use technology and building on the success of the UK’s Future Tech Forum;
  • using the UK’s ITU Council seat to work together with partners to increase worldwide connectivity, and provide clear leadership in the telecoms sector; and
  • working with industry to promote UK exports and attract Foreign Direct Investment into the UK technology sector.

The Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan has said: “We are a top-class breeding ground for emerging tech, but being a superpower means working with our international partners to turn these nascent technologies into global industries. Our International Tech Strategy will ensure we deepen collaboration with our allies on the technologies of tomorrow, driving growth and prosperity for the UK while strengthening our national security.”

ITS23 is not short of ambition and commitments but it is yet to be seen how key priority actions, such as the creation of a Technology Centre of Expertise and the expansion of the tech envoy network, will be delivered over the coming years. As the strategy highlights, the UK will need to carefully consider how it uses its strong current position as a platform to boost its capabilities but also to tackle new and emerging global challenges in order to achieve its superpower status. 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the International Technology Strategy further, please contact Lucy Pegler or a member of our Technology team.

Key contact

Lucy Pegler

Lucy Pegler Partner

  • Technology and Communications
  • Data Protection and Cybersecurity
  • Outsourcing

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