Brexit will motivate the United Kingdom to forge closer ties with global partners in the area of ed tech, predicts U.K. Science Minister Chris Skidmore.
Skidmore said ed tech can play a fundamental role in elevating the profile of U.K. education in other countries, which is one reason ed-tech goals feature “so prominently” as part of the U.K.’s International Education Strategy.
The science minister shared his perspective last week during the Bett international ed-tech conference in London.
Skidmore’s remarks are timely, as the U.K. is set to leave the European Union on Friday, after voters in a 2016 referendum opted for their country to exit the bloc by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent.
This year, the U.K. government plans to develop a new “testbed” aimed at transforming learning for students with special needs and disabilities, Skidmore said. The goal is to help identify technologies that can remove barriers for pupils, allowing them access to the curriculum that wasn’t previously possible.
The new testbed also is intended to help ed-tech companies better design products so it works for both learners and their teachers and has a “positive feedback mechanism” built into it, he said.
“We’re sure that the assistive technology testbed is likely to generate just as much global interest as the first wave, and we look forward to working with other countries to help all students access a world-class education, no matter what obstacles they face,” Skidmore said.
The first wave of the testbed—which involves matching schools and colleges with leading ed-tech products created to solve challenges like homework marking or parental engagement—is attracting worldwide attention, Skidmore said.
He also noted that the government intends to launch a global “what works” ed-tech hub later this year, and announced that the Gates Foundation will be part of that initiative’s leadership, along with the World Bank, British universities, researchers, and global education experts.
Generally, the U.K. intends to focus on making investments in computing education and cutting-edge companies, Skidmore said.
The country has pledged to “massively” increase public research and development investment, with a commitment to reach 2.4 percent of GDP spent on R&D from public and private sources by 2027, he said.
“We’re also going to double government investment in R&D,” Skidmore said. “We’ll use some of that money to invest strategically in cutting-edge science and fund high-risk, high-reward research, and we’ll also look to reduce bureaucracy for our best scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs.”
The U.K. is continuing to support startups and “other innovative tech-led businesses” through a range of grants, innovation loans, and business development support, he said.
“If you’re a budding innovator with dreams of creating VR software that can transform a history classroom into a medieval castle or even an Egyptian tomb, you have a welcome home here,” Skidmore said. “Or, if you’re an entrepreneur who’s had a eureka moment about ed tech, and how it can be used to reduce teacher workload, you have the environment to put that idea into practice, right here in the UK.”