3. Community perceptions

UK tech communities share key experiences

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Tech Nation Report 2018 Survey

3428Survey responses

33%Founders and CEOs

65Clusters explored

UK tech communities share key experiences

To develop a deep understanding of the UK digital tech ecosystem, we explored a mix of official, web and open data, as well as probing the experiences and perceptions of ambitious entrepreneurs, support organisations and employees in the sector.

This year’s Tech Nation survey received the largest response yet from these members of the UK tech community.

In a total of 3,428 submissions, they told us about the opportunities and challenges their local ecosystems face, and the digital tech leaders they admire.

The majority of respondents (33%) were founders and CEOs, followed by workers in tech companies (31%).

James Duez

Investor, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Rainbird

Norwich businesses value working together, both locally and as part of the much bigger tech community in the UK.”

Quality of life trumps cost of living for tech communities

What is the perception in your cluster when it comes to Living? Explore both cost and quality in the map below to find out.

Tech community perceptions of Living 

Source: Tech Nation and Streetbees, 2018

All scores are out of 10, and are
an average of responses from
local tech communities surveyed

Quality of life and cost of living are important factors for businesses. Places that offer a high quality of life and low cost of living can play key roles in company recruitment processes and, even affect business strategy.

Eighty-three per cent of tech communities across the UK rated their quality of life as high. High levels of satisfaction were seen in communities with a variety of local attributes.  From rural communities such as Liskeard in Cornwall to cities such as Bath and Edinburgh. Clusters with some of the lowest quality of life ratings were London, Reading and Southampton at 6.7, 6.8 and 6.9 out of 10 respectively.

Community’ assessments of the cost of living in the local area varied far more widely. Newcastle emerged as the cluster where communities were most positive about the cost of living, with a score of 8.4 out of 10. Cambridge, on the other hand, came in at 3/10. Unsurprisingly, other cities in the South East of England like London and Oxford were also felt by communities to have a high cost of living.

However, cost of living does not dictate a community’s perception of quality of life. Places with some of the worst cost of living rankings still placed high on quality of life. Brighton is a case in point – where even though it had the fourth lowest rating for cost of living at 3.5/10, quality of life was still felt to be high, coming in above average at 8.2/10.

More emphasis needed on training opportunities for UK tech workers

Across UK communities, 60% of respondents felt that the quality of schools in their area was good, compared to 55% who felt the same for the quality of training for people working in the tech sector.  This means that more emphasis could be placed on education for people in work. Platforms like Udemy and Coursera enable tech talent to stay up to date with the skills needed in the changing UK economy by upskilling people already participating in the labour market.

The local tech community ranked Belfast highest for the quality of schools

How does the community in your cluster think your schools are performing? Compare to other clusters across the UK.

In Belfast 92% of respondents felt that the quality of schools was good. Belfast, Edinburgh and Cambridge also scored highly for the quality of training available for people already in the workforce. These cities are renowned for the international standing of their academic institutions.

Tech communities in both Edinburgh and Cambridge recognise the role of these institutions in their local ecosystem – citing proximity to a university as a key strength. This offers opportunities for collaborative Research and Development (R&D) and complementary physical infrastructure, like labs or high performance computing facilities that can be capitalised on by both universities and businesses.

Tech community perceptions of People 

Source: Tech Nation and Streetbees, 2018

All scores are out of 10, and are
an average of responses from
local tech communities surveyed

Gender diversity is a concern for UK tech

Gender diversity is a pressing concern for communities across the UK. 48% of people felt that gender diversity in their local tech ecosystem was low, 40% felt that ethnic diversity was low and 33% perceived a lack of age diversity.

There are many initiatives to boost diversity in the tech sector. Many have a shared buy in from industry – ambitious entrepreneurs must take a greater role in developing new talent and recognising potential. Some of these examples of good practice include:

  • Girls In Tech – a global non-profit organisation focused on the engagement, education, and empowerment of women in technology
  • Founders4Schools – helping people improve the life chances of students by connecting them to business leaders
  • Colorintech – the UK’s first diversity platform designed to connect talented recruits from ethnic and gender minority backgrounds to the nation’s leading tech companies.
  • AllBright – fund and support female entrepreneurs across the UK, to ultimately make the UK the best place to be a female founder.
  • Code First: Girls – a not for profit social enterprise. Aims to increase the number of women in tech to help address the gender imbalance in the tech industry.

Many tech communities are local heroes in search of international recognition

What are the top tech business challenges across the UK? How does that compare with your cluster? Hover over the map to see results from tech communities.

Tech community perceptions of Doing business 

Source: Tech Nation and Streetbees, 2018

All scores are out of 10, and are
an average of responses from
local tech communities surveyed

Access to talent was the top challenge identified by tech communities for doing business at 55% of communities surveyed.

This is unchanged from 2017, where 55% of respondents felt that access to skilled workers was a challenge. Access to funding was also cited as a key challenge by 40% of respondents, and similarly affected communities across the country. In 2017, 32% of businesses flagged access to finance – indicating that this issue is growing in importance in the UK.

An important factor for UK businesses is national and international awareness of their tech sector, which can have a positive impact on local economies. Businesses often use reputation as an asset; to validate their brand, and attract customers and talent. Also, if a community becomes renowned for its tech economy, other tech firms might move in. This clustering of businesses develops competitive ecosystems, incentivises efficiency and boosts productivity.  

Communities were more likely to think that there was more awareness about their local tech sector nationally than internationally. But there is a fair amount of variation on this measure. Respondents in mature tech clusters such as, London, Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh felt that across the world people were aware of their local tech sector. However, communities in the likes of Bath and Canterbury felt that their presence on the international stage was low.

Communities in Dundee and Brighton felt high levels of awareness nationally. Perhaps this is due to Dundee’s nationwide renown as a top gaming hotspot, and Brighton’s domestic reputation as a strong creative tech cluster.  

Access to workspace continues to be a challenge for tech communities. This was felt most acutely in built up, urban areas like London, Bristol and Oxford. This includes both affordability and availability of workspace. Less populous, more rural communities, like Liskeard, Falkirk and Stirling, and Worcester struggled less with access to space.

Access to workspace should also be considered alongside factors like cost of living and digital infrastructure. Communities with access to ultrafast broadband – like Liskeard, Poole, Edinburgh, Redruth and Truro and Bristol – were less likely to flag connectivity as an issue.

UK tech communities are optimistic about business growth

Are you optimistic about the growth of digital tech businesses in your cluster? How do your views compare to the rest of the UK? Click on the map to find out.

Tech community perceptions of future business Growth 

Source: Tech Nation and Streetbees, 2018

All scores are out of 5, and are
an average of responses from
local tech communities surveyed

70% of respondents thought that both the number and the scale of digital tech businesses in their local area would rise.

Investors in tech businesses tend to take a more positive view than the tech community as a whole. Seventy-four per cent feel that the number of businesses will rise over the next year, while 76% suggested the scale of digital tech businesses will increase.

Access to talent and investment continue to challenge UK tech

In the Tech Nation 2018 survey, we asked respondents, to tell us in their own words what the top strengths and challenges were in their local tech community. In analysing these responses, we grouped them by distinct themes.

The challenges experienced by people living and working in UK tech clusters are seldom unique to their environment.

Explore the map to see the top challenges in your cluster. Connect with other clusters that have the same and learn from each other.

Challenges identified by local tech communities 

Source: Tech Nation and Streetbees, 2018

Click on a challenge in the legend
to remove clusters for which this
is the top challenge from the map

The top challenges identified by respondents in survey areas

1Access to talent
2Access to funding
3Bad transport links

UK tech communities value quality of life

Strengths, as well as challenges, are shared — suggesting that benefits could come from better connections that enable founders and CEOs to learn from one another and open up new opportunities through collaboration.

The UK has a diverse mix of local conditions and cultures, including balanced growth and global connectedness, that converge to form a dynamic, national ecosystem. These factors define the UK's strength as a tech nation.

Strengths identified by local tech communities 

Source: Tech Nation and Streetbees, 2018

Click on a strength in the legend
to remove clusters for which this
is the top strength from the map

These findings highlight the need to continue championing tech communities across the UK. Tech communities are connected. They are local, but they are also global – connecting to others across the UK, and the world.

They take many forms, from meetup attendees to GitHub collaborators, and colleagues in co-working spaces to students and tutors in code schools.  As a tech nation, it is up to the UK tech community to collectively value and share this diverse range of activity.

The top strengths identified by respondents in survey areas

1Appealing area
2A helpful tech community
3Proximity to a university

Tech leaders inspiring communities across the UK

Fifty-one per cent of tech leaders were either heads of, or working in, tech companies.  Some are industry veterans such as Hermann Hauser of Amadeus Capital. Others were disruptors, such as Demis Hassabis of DeepMind, Lawrence Jones of UKFast and Paul Smith of Hyperloop One.

A further 48% were members of the wider ecosystem. These are people working for universities, employed by the council to accelerate growth, running coworking spaces, conferences and much more.

11% of tech leaders identified by communities were women. This is concerning as role models are key to attracting and keeping women in the tech professions and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) more broadly.

More should be done to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men in tech. Many grassroots movements such as GeekGirl Meetup, aim to highlight female role models in the industry and encourage women to speak at events. Now a global movement, GeekGirl Meetup was founded in Sweden in 2008 and established In London in 2011.

Find your tech leader. Select a cluster from the drop down.

Data partner

We worked with Streetbees on the Tech Nation 2018 Survey. It was conducted between 15 January 2018 and 2nd February 2018. The survey received 3,438 complete responses. We use postcode data to identify the TTWA of respondents.

Sponsor insight

At JLL, we understand just how important the place you work can be. But, as this report confirms, places are nothing without dedicated communities supporting them. 57% of clusters across the nation flagged the tech community as a top local strength.

We are here to make sure you choose the right location for your business, to help create inspiring workplaces, and to show you how the buildings you occupy can make your talent more productive. More than this, though, at JLL we share the same ambition as Tech Nation — to help digital tech communities flourish across the UK. What better way to engage with the pressing issues experienced in tech, than to hear from those ambitious entrepreneurs driving the sector  forward?

Many of the challenges that tech businesses in the UK face are not exclusive to where they are based. Although they vary from place to place, broadband speeds, living costs, transport, affordable workspace and even access to the best talent, are needs shared across the country. That is why we are supporting Tech Nation’s work on community perceptions this year — to share insights, and facilitate connections.

The UK is at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to unite a rich and diverse range of communities across the country to come together on key issues defining your ecosystem. We hope that you will use these insights to make informed business decisions, and accelerate your success at this incredibly exciting time for UK tech.

Michael Davis
Tech and Media Sector Lead

Tech Nation 2018 is now open!

Great news. All data featured in the 2018 Tech Nation Report is available online for non-commercial use by third parties.  The data can be accessed through the data.world platform. If you use the data, please let us know. We would love to showcase your work.

If you'd like know why we are doing this, check out our blog.

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