Tech firms’ confidence will help us build a UK Facebook or Google

 
David Richards
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The UK’s tech sector stretches far beyond the confines of Silicon Roundabout (Source: Getty)
Tech City's UK’s Tech Nation report today confirms what many of us in the tech sector have long known to be true: the UK’s digital businesses are flourishing and are set to become even more vital to our economy in the next few years.

Fortune favours the brave, and we have the potential in this country to create billion dollar exits – British giants that will rival Facebook, Google and Twitter. Some 98 per cent of our digital businesses are still small companies, but if this potential is allayed to bold ambition, there is no reason why our tech industry can’t eventually match the US in terms of scale and scope.

Growing a true tech behemoth takes a huge degree of faith, on top of all of the hard work required to take an idea to market. And building a these firms is very different to growing a more traditional business. But the potential for growth is astounding, and the rewards are far greater.

According to Tech Nation, almost 1.5m people – 7.5 per cent of the British workforce – are now employed in digital industries across the UK, and job growth in these companies is set to outperform all other categories over the next five years.

And while London has traditionally been the focus of the industry, the UK’s tech sector stretches far beyond the traditional confines of Shoreditch’s Silicon Roundabout. The UK as a whole is fast becoming a centre of technological excellence, with today’s report showing that 74 per cent of digital businesses are now based outside the capital. There are currently 45,000 digital jobs being advertised in the UK, with some 62 per cent of these for positions outside inner London, according to Future Fifty company Adzuna.

Rapidly growing tech clusters are springing up across the length and breadth of the nation and, significantly, these hubs have developed their own specialisms, identities and sources of competitive advantage.

London, for example, is a world leader in FinTech, whereas Manchester is a hotbed for digital media startups. From first-hand experience of basing my software company in Sheffield, and subsequently opening up another UK office in Belfast, I know that there is a wealth of talent out there.

Tech clusters around the UK enable burgeoning companies to grow rapidly by providing a hugely beneficial combination of talent, supportive networks of entrepreneurs and access to much needed financial backing. The report identifies 21 of these clusters in total, the fastest growing of which are, aside from inner London, Bournemouth, Liverpool, Brighton and Hove, and South Wales.

To make the most of Britain’s nascent tech opportunity, this success needs to be built upon. We must feed off the self-confidence that Tech Nation should inspire to take our digital economy to the next level. There is talent, funding and infrastructure here, and with the government’s support for Tech Nation, we really can be the very best.

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