UK and US Agree to Strengthen Science and Tech Collaboration
The United Kingdom and the United States yesterday showed that the unity between the English-speaking red, white, and blue nations still stands just as strong as ever. The nations have agreed to deepen ties on science and technology, with the promise that together they will create a new era of strategic cooperation in the field.
The news came as part of President Joe Biden’s first visit to the United Kingdom since his election and ascension into the White House, ahead of the G7 summit. Under the framework of a revitalised Atlantic Charter, this landmark move by the UK and US is guaranteed to strengthen the increasingly valued transatlantic relationship ─ once dubbed “the special relationship” during the 80s ─, create jobs, and protect the security of citizens on both sides of the pond.
Both nations have been leading the world in research and development for several decades, if not centuries, in certain sectors, and this partnership outlines their ambition to maintain that dominance in the face of rising competition to the east. The collaborative effort will see both the UK and US continue to invest heavily in industry-relevant expertise and to develop the capacity to create wealth and tackle inequality while ensuring the values of liberal democracies, open societies, and open markets are embedded in the design and use of technology globally. What will the partnership explore?
The partnership is set to explore a large number of areas for cooperation, including but not limited to research, innovation, and commercialisation; defence, intelligence, law enforcement, and security; and make sure that modern technologies are only used as a force for good around the world ─ which is a wholly subjective factor. “Officials from both countries will work to develop the partnership over the course of the next year,” according to gov.uk.
In terms of current pain-points, the initiative is likely to strengthen cooperation in areas such as the resilience and security of critical supply chains, the development of battery technologies, and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, and it should improve the accessibility and flow of data to support economic growth, public safety, as well as scientific and technological progress on both sides of the Atlantic.
“It will see the countries work towards a new statement of intent to help realise the full potential of quantum technologies, which use the properties of quantum physics to dramatically improve the functionality and performance of devices, develop proposals on future technology such as 6G and strengthen collaboration on digital technical standards.
The two nations have also committed to continue to broaden collaboration on science and technology to help facilitate world-class research and influence the rules, norms and standards governing technology and the digital economy.
The countries hope to combine their expertise to tackle global challenges such as cancer, pandemic preparedness, antimicrobial resistance, and climate change, including through closer coordination between the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and through closer collaboration between US and UK senior science and technology advisers.”
- UK and US will develop a new partnership on science and technology to strengthen collaboration between our countries, creating jobs and protecting security
- The partnership will help progress the principles enshrined in the new Atlantic Charter agreed by the Prime Minister and President Biden at a meeting in Cornwall today
- Future cooperation will build on the Digital Secretary’s 10 Tech Priorities, the UK’s R&D Strategy and the government’s Integrated Review
Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden said:
“In the 80 years since the Atlantic Charter was signed, technology has changed the world beyond recognition.
But the goals that underpin it still bind the US and UK together today: support for democracy, open societies and free markets.
Today’s announcement marks a new era of cooperation with our closest ally, in which we commit to using technology to create prosperity and guarantee the safety and security of our citizens for years to come.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:
“The United States is our closest ally and most important research partner – a partnership which harnesses the power of the free market, science and new technology to address some of humanity’s greatest challenges, from antimicrobial resistance to preparing for future pandemics.
The landmark new partnership announced today will deepen those all-important ties and ensure Anglo-American research can continue to develop new technologies to generate wealth and prosperity for the good of mankind for generations to come.”
Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Eric Lander, said:
“There are few relationships as consequential as the transatlantic partnership between the United States and United Kingdom in science and technology.
We share a belief in the power of science and technology to improve health, prosperity and security, and a commitment to the importance of investigator-driven research, freedom of inquiry, and equitable participation in the S&T enterprise.
Together, we will seek to set a positive example of how countries can work together to solve the critical and transnational challenges of the 21st century, including pandemic preparedness, climate change, and cancer.”
Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, said:
“I welcome this closer collaboration which will bring together the best of UK and US scientists and engineers. By combining our expertise to tackle global challenges, such as cancer, climate change, and pandemic preparedness, we can make a real difference and improve people’s lives.”
Who Will Be the Next Tech Giant to Back Bitcoin?
PayPal was the first truly major tech giant to throw its weight behind Bitcoin, unveiling a cryptocurrency buying-and-selling service in October. Next was Tesla, which shocked onlookers in February by announcing the purchase of $1.5 billion in bitcoin, as well as plans to accept the cryptocurrency as payment.
Since then, things have calmed down as far as Big Tech and Bitcoin are concerned (although a number of banks have rolled out cryptocurrency investment services for their wealthier clients). This raises the question: when will another significant tech firm take the plunge and back bitcoin?
This is a difficult question to answer, if only because the bitcoin market is in something of a funk right now. At the same time, regulators worldwide are looking to restrict crypto in the name of curbing money laundering and other illicit activities. Nonetheless, rumours continue to swirl through the sector that a few other important names in the tech industry may be on the cusp of embracing bitcoin, with Apple being the most notable.
Is Apple Buying Bitcoin?
If you tend to spend any amount of time on Crypto Twitter, you may be aware of rumours to the effect that Apple has recently bought something in the region of $2.5 billion in bitcoin.
Such rumours were almost certainly a desperate attempt to boost the price of bitcoin. And given that the market didn’t witness a sudden, dramatic rise (but rather a steep loss), it seems pretty clear that Apple didn’t buy a substantial quantity of bitcoin in the past few weeks or so.
That said, there remains a good chance that Apple will enter the cryptocurrency sector at some point, even if it won’t be adventurous enough to buy crypto for itself. Back in May, it placed a job ad for a business development manager for “alternative payments.”
Such a manager would be tasked with cultivating partnerships with “strategic alternative payment providers,” implying that Apple may be weighing up the possibility of launching its own cryptocurrency-purchasing service (à la PayPal) via Apple Pay.
Needless to say, it would be huge for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency if the Cupertino company were to follow through with this.
Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook?
Rumours have also revolved around possible bitcoin interest from Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, although there’s a little less substance to most of these rumours.
Back in October former Goldman Sachs hedge fund manager Raoul Pal predicted that Microsoft (along with Apple) would buy bitcoin in five years. Unfortunately, a CNN interview with Microsoft’s Brad Smith in February (shortly after Tesla’s bitcoin purchase) revealed that the company had no plans to purchase crypto, although Smith vaguely hinted that it might one day change its collective mind.
More interestingly, Amazon purchased three cryptocurrency-related domain names back in 2017: amazonethereum.com, amazoncryptocurrency.com, amazoncryptocurrencies.com. Nothing has been heard since then, while a job listing from February of this year revealed that the retail giant may be planning to launch its very own digital currency.
Facebook is another tech firm with plans for its own digital currency (Diem, formerly known as Libra). As for whether it’s likely to turn to bitcoin, a few relatively respected figures within the cryptocurrency industry (e.g. Alistair Milne) did spread rumours in April that the social media company would disclose bitcoin holdings on its Q1 financial statement. This didn’t happen, although Mark Zuckerberg did reveal in May that one of his pet goats is called “Bitcoin,” fuelling further speculation as to his and his firm’s interest in the cryptocurrency.
Risks and Rewards of Cryptocurrency
Again, it’s arguable that some or most of the rumours are generated largely to pump crypto prices. But if bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies do continue to appreciate in value and attract more adoption, it will become increasingly harder for large tech companies to ignore them.
But at the moment, it’s likely that most major tech firms will shy away from actually buying bitcoin, if only because it remains highly volatile and unpredictable as an asset. And as we saw with Tesla, buying a massive chunk of the cryptocurrency effectively turns you into a hedge fund overnight, something which can adversely affect your stock price if bitcoin goes down.
Even so, there’s clearly a considerable amount of money tied up in the cryptocurrency market. And with numbers of holders growing every year, it’s only a matter of time before other big tech firms attempt to siphon off some of this value for themselves.