Tech Nation Report 2020: UK digital tech grew faster than other sectors

Digital tech, which contributes £149 billion to the UK economy, currently employs 2.9 million people throughout the four countries, a 40% increase from 2017 and now accounting for 9% of the national workforce.

The amount of tech businesses in the UK worth between $250-800 million, according to the report, is the highest on record; 95, which is a 27% increase from 2018, and more than those in France (61), Germany (46), and Israel (46).

45% of these high-value scaleup businesses, which have raised £6.75 billion and boast 17,475 employees, are based outside of London.

“In a rapidly changing world, the UK is a shining light for tech entrepreneurs, investors and employees,” said Gerard Grech, chief executive at Tech Nation. “Some of the biggest UK successes; the 77 so-called tech unicorns, are $1 billion valued companies that now inspire others, and there are an additional 95 tech businesses across the UK primed to be scaling over the coming years.

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“The success of these businesses will be grounded in the UK tech ecosystem’s ability to build deeper and broader knowledge networks between various constituents such as experienced investors and entrepreneurs and to truly fuel growth across the country.

“We need to stay responsive, with smart regulation, ever increasing access to growth capital and new markets. Every effort we put in now will repay many times over, as the past few years have already shown.”

According to the report, 25% of cities in Europe with the highest investment in tech in 2019 are in the UK (Manchester, London, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge), with Manchester being the fastest growing in Europe with a 277% increase between 2018 and 2019.

Additionally, Series C investment or later into UK tech increased by 71%, while private equity grew by 51%.

New technologies

In terms of new digital tech, the UK came in third globally for investment into artificial intelligence (AI) from 2015 until 2019; £3.2 billion was raised by UK AI companies, compared to £32 billion by those in the United States, and £12 billion from China.

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For money raised towards cyber security, meanwhile, the UK came in fourth with £7.8 billion, behind the US, China and Israel.

The UK also came fourth globally in blockchain investment, raising £8.9 billion.

“The tech sector is at the heart of our economy and creating jobs and wealth across the country.”

“We are determined to create the conditions digital businesses need to succeed and are investing heavily in gigabit speed broadband, 5G, cyber security, digital skills and research and development,” said digital secretary Oliver Dowden.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.