The figures published yesterday show the UK digital and tech sector exported more than £39bn in services in 2016, up from £32bn in 2015.
The 21.8% growth underlines the UK’s future trading opportunities linked to cutting-edge technology.
Exports of goods in the digital sector, including products such as software, manufactured electronics and computers were up 7.3% and worth more than £15bn.
According to the recent Tech Nation’s 2018 report, tech is expanding 2.6 times faster than the rest of the UK economy. The digital tech sector is worth nearly £184 billion to the UK economy, up from £170 billion in 2016.
According to the Digital Secretary, Matt Hancock, the statistics show how the UK tech sector is in demand from businesses and consumers around the globe, with exports up a fifth.
He added: “We are working hard to create the right environment for them to thrive and alongside the huge innovation of the private sector are determined to seize all the future opportunities technology will bring.”
The recent Tech Nation 2018 report also highlighted also revealed the rise of ‘silicon suburbs’ and tech towns across the UK, where the digital tech sector is growing in urban areas not usually associated with startups and tech businesses.
For example, BJSS, a Leeds based IT and digital consultancy which is currently working with some of the world’s largest public and private sector organisations.
The Government is supporting the technology sector through its Digital and Industrial Strategies, almost £1 billion of investment in artificial intelligence, competitive tax relief, a commitment to spend 2.4% of GDP on research and development.
However, recently the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called on the government to invest in 3% of GDP on R&D in anticipation of economic difficulties post-Brexit.
According to the report: “More and more, countries are increasing their focus on science and innovation and the balance of power is shifting east. At the same time, unless addressed, the UK’s exit from the EU could leave our businesses and universities unable to access the funding and collaborative networks of which they have been a leading recipient and contributor, damaging our influence overseas.”
There are also concerns over the government’s management of the skills gap in the tech sector, with recent research revealing that 89% of STEM businesses (science, technology, engineering and maths) have found it difficult to hire staff with the required skills in the last 12 months, with companies now having an average of 10 unfilled posts. While over 1,200 IT professionals were refused entry to the UK by the Home Office to take up jobs that they were qualified to do.