Red tape choking UK tech start-ups, argues new CPS report

  • The UK’s current regulatory apparatus, which is slow to adapt to emerging technologies, is holding back the UK’s tech superpower ambitions.
  • Many innovators are looking elsewhere to set up new tech firms, due to Britain’s unsupportive regulatory environment.
  • Previous CPS research established that the net annual burden of regulation on business increased by £6bn in the 2010s
  • Unless the Government changes course, it is at risk of being left behind while the rest of the world reaps the rewards of technological innovation
  • Britain must embrace permissionless innovation and ensure that inventors, researchers, labs, universities, companies and entrepreneurs are asking regulators for forgiveness rather than permission

British tech firms are being held back by outdated approaches to regulation and heavy-handed red tape, according to a new report by the Centre for Policy Studies.

‘Regulating for Growth’ by CPS Head of Tech and Innovation Matthew Feeney argues that an overzealous and antiquated attitude to regulating emerging technologies is impeding the UK’s ‘tech superpower’ ambitions. This culture of regulation will see the UK lose out on new jobs and economic growth.

The report looks specifically at the history of a number of technologies, and the regulatory obstacles they faced. For example, it shows how regulations are hampering the use of drones for spreading fertiliser or energy firms using drones to monitor and maintain offshore wind turbines.

It argues that the UK needs to reassess its culture of regulation. In particular, each regulator should adopt a ‘policy charter’ setting out the harms it seeks to regulate. As part of this, permissionless innovation should become the default – and to keep regulation up-to-date, all legislation should include a ‘best-before date’ at which point it should be reviewed and either scrapped or amended depending on its usefulness.

By creating this kind of system, the UK can make its regulatory environment adaptive to new technology and open to new tech investment.

Report author and CPS Head of Tech and Innovation, Matthew Feeney, said:

‘There is a world where the UK becomes a global centre for technological experimentation, research and innovation. Where entrepreneurs and inventors are free to test new products and launch innovative companies. Unfortunately, this is not the world current policy will produce.

‘It is crucial for the Government to get technology regulation correct because success in the 21st century will be largely dependent on the speedy and successful adoption of new and emerging technologies. A country that does not have a regulatory structure nimble and flexible enough to new and emerging technologies risks being left behind.’



  • ‘Regulating for Growth’ is available to download here
  • Matthew Feeney is the Head of Tech and Innovation at the Centre for Policy Studies.
  • The Centre for Policy Studies is hosting an event on Thursday 23 May at 10.00 with the Minister for Regulatory Reform, Lord Dominic Johnson, discussing our work on regulation as well as a recent government White Paper. For more information or to attend this event please contact [email protected].
    For further information and media requests, please contact Emma Revell, External Affairs Director, on 07931 698246 or [email protected] or Josh Coupland, Digital and Communications Manager, on [email protected] and 07912 485655.
  • The Centre for Policy Studies is one of the oldest and most influential think tanks in Westminster. With a focus on taxation, economic growth, business, welfare, education, housing and green growth, its goal is to develop policies that widen enterprise, ownership and opportunity.

Date Added: Thursday 23rd May 2024