Hello Tech Nation

Vicki Shiel, November 14, 2017 9 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech City UK website.

Today the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have announced the start of Tech Nation.

Theresa May and Philip Hammond have pledged to commit an additional £21 million in funding over the next four years, to support the expansion of Tech City UK and Tech North into Tech Nation. Tech Nation will also benefit from a greater allocation of exceptional talent visas. These will be available to all endorsing bodies including for highly skilled tech workers who want to come and work in the UK, in recognition of the sector’s global nature. With this wider remit, we will work tirelessly to accelerate the growth of the UK digital tech sector – bringing jobs, skills and higher productivity to the regions.

Thriving digital tech clusters have sprung up all over the country from Bristol and Bath in the West Country, to Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland. But if the UK is to retain its position as Europe’s centre for tech, we need to develop and strengthen these clusters into a nation-wide network of digital excellence.

We need to think and act as one Tech Nation.

Since its launch in 2011, Tech City UK and Tech North (from 2014) have helped the digital tech start-up and scale-up sector become the UK’s fastest growing industry. More than 1.7 million people now work in the digital tech sector and jobs are being created at twice the rate of other sectors in the economy. According to Tech Nation 2017, the tech sector has a turnover of £170 billion – an increase of 22% in five years.

With the government’s backing, we will take this proven formula and build a national network across eleven regions, including London.

Changing our name to Tech Nation reflects the broader approach we will take in future. The digital tech sector has never been just about East London or booming Northern hotspots. By becoming Tech Nation we will transform the UK from a series of standalone tech hubs into a powerful network that can place the nation firmly at the top of global tech rankings.

We’ve made a great start. Tech City UK is arguably the longest-running and most successful ecosystem builder in Europe. It is connected, independent and trusted by entrepreneurs. It has unrivalled expertise in catalysing growth in tech companies at different stages of their development. The success is evident. London has become the digital capital of Europe and the envy of many tech hubs in helping entrepreneurs start and grow a digital business.

The groundwork has been laid. Now it’s time to root ourselves in a bigger vision.

Tech Nation has three goals. Through its targeted growth programmes, it will create a national network of digital excellence and innovation, connecting start-ups and entrepreneurs into a broader narrative for the future growth of the UK economy; rooting all of us in the bigger vision for Britain. It will boost digital entrepreneurship skills across the UK, with the online Digital Business Academy, that is constantly evolving and is accessible to all. Finally, it will champion emerging sectors in tech, creating mechanisms for shared knowledge and a fast-track onto the broader national and international stage.

Tech Nation: A national network

Our priority will be to build a national network, connecting and catalysing growth in 10 regional tech clusters, plus London, through programmes aimed at every stage in the lifecycle of a digital business.

The new funding provides the resources to add tech clusters to the network already established by Tech City UK and Tech North (that is, London and three clusters in the North – the North West, Yorkshire and North East).

We have identified a shortlist of tech clusters on a promising growth trajectory to include in this expanded network, alongside London.

The set of clusters to form Tech Nation will be located in:

  • East of England – Cambridge
  • South West – Bristol/Bath
  • North West – Manchester
  • North East – Newcastle
  • Yorkshire & Humberside – Leeds/ Sheffield
  • Midlands – Birmingham
  • M4 Corridor – Reading
  • Scotland – Edinburgh/ Glasgow
  • Northern Ireland – Belfast
  • Wales – Cardiff
  • Greater London – London

We will extend, where applicable, programmes which have proved successful in the North, such as Founders Network and Northern Stars, to build a national network of digital entrepreneurs. We will also strengthen our national programmes Future Fifty and Upscale.

Tech Nation – Visas

An important aspect of Tech Nation’s work on skills is its administration of the Tech Nation Visa scheme, which is an entry option for exceptionally talented individuals from around the world, who want to apply to work in the UK.

We are delighted that the Home Office is doubling the number of exceptional talent and exceptional promise visas that can be obtained – up from 1,000 to 2,000.

In addition, in future there will be no restriction on the limit for each sector, after the first 1,000 visas. This is great news for the UK’s tech community. Visa applications soared during 2016, underlining the desire of many talented people to work or start tech businesses in the UK. By doubling the allowance of exceptional talent visas, the tech community will feel confident that it can continue to hire for global expansion from a talent pool across the world.

Tech Nation – Entrepreneurial Skills focus

A priority for Tech Nation will be to enable ambitious founders and entrepreneurs to fulfill their potential. The UK’s tech sector has many talented individuals working in it, but it also faces a skills challenge which needs action.

Tech Nation will address the skills challenge across the UK, whether amongst people wanting to bring digital skills into their existing businesses, start a new tech business or companies on the brink of international expansion.

We will expand the content and reach of the Digital Business Academy so that it can support more than 40,000 people to learn the skills needed to start, join or grow a digital business. This will complement our existing skills programmes. Skills initiatives, like all our initiatives, will be underpinned by research, data and insights in order to showcase the country’s burgeoning tech ecosystem both nationally and internationally.

Tech Nation – Sector focus

As the tech ecosystem has matured, demand has risen for sector-specific programmes that can build on the UK’s competitive advantage. With the agreement of the Treasury, we will work especially hard to accelerate the Fintech sector and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector.  

Linking together the best-in-class scaling businesses from the same sectors across different cities will help growing companies learn from each other and get support quickly when they need it.

Concentrating our resources on priority sectors will ensure the UK becomes the internationally recognised leader in these key emerging areas. In places where emerging sectors are starting to show dominance, we will work with these sectors to accelerate their growth. While doing so, we will make sure that supported sectors are capable of standing on their own when that sector support is withdrawn.

Got any further questions? Maybe we can help. Take a read of our latest blog post answering the ten most popular questions regarding Tech Nation.

Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK (soon to be Tech Nation), said:

We are thrilled that the UK Government is backing the development of digital entrepreneurship and the tech sector across the UK. Tech Nation will help transform London and the UK from a series of standalone tech hubs into a powerful national network that will place the UK firmly at the top of global tech rankings. This will ensure that conditions for tech talent and international investment become even more attractive at this crucial point in the UK’s history.

Eileen Burbidge, Chair of Tech City UK (soon to be Tech Nation), said:

“We are delighted to hear that the Government wants to increase Tech City UK’s funding for the next four years. Under the Tech Nation banner, this country that has brought so much innovation to the world and leads in sub-sectors such as fintech, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics and life sciences will build a national network of digital excellence so that the UK will continue to be recognised as one of the best places in the world to start or grow a digital tech business.”

Richard Gregory, director of Tech North (part of Tech City UK and soon to be Tech Nation), said:

“Over the last two and half years Tech North has galvanised the digital tech sector across the North and helped put the North firmly on the map with some amazing programmes and initiatives including Northern Stars, the creation of the Founders Network, the launch of Northern Tech 100, plus Northern Voices and our work on highlighting investment levels. It is this great track record that we now intend to share with other regions across the UK so that we can forge one great Tech Nation, all pulling together to make sure that we remain one of the leading places in the world to start or grow a digital tech business.”

Herb Kim, chair of Tech North Advisory Board and member of Tech City UK board, said:

“For the past 15 years, I have championed the digital sector as a source of growth for the North’s economy and for the future of the whole of the UK. I couldn’t be happier to hear that the success of Tech City UK and Tech North will now be enhanced and extended in the form of Tech Nation. My congratulations to the tireless efforts of all involved to get us to this stage. Let us mobilise the technical talent and entrepreneurial vigour of this great country into a bright new future for all.”

Support from the community:

Saul Klein, founding partner, LocalGlobe:  

“There is no better time for Tech City UK to evolve into a truly national organisation that works to accelerate the growth of the digital tech sector. The UK’s digital tech ecosystem is reaching a point of maturity where great businesses, nurtured by a generation of experienced company founders and investors, can begin to emerge. This is a cycle that Tech Nation understands and can help to accelerate, having done just that in London and the North in the last six years.”

Samir Desai, Funding Circle, a Future Fifty alumni company:

Tech City UK has been an excellent advocate for the tech sector, understanding the needs of startups and scaling businesses and representing this coherently to Government. The programme they deliver is comprehensive and has supported us across a range of issues and business priorities.

Cherry Freeman, co-founder LoveCrafts, a Future Fifty company, said:

“Being involved in Future Fifty has been instrumental in helping us to drive LoveCrafts’ growth on an international scale. Tech City UK has been a great supporter and resource to us and it’s great news that they are going to expand their role over the next four years. I know that they will make a great success of working with entrepreneurs and founders in tech clusters across the country.”

Malcolm Cowley, founder and CEO of Performance Horizon Group in Newcastle:

“Tech City has been a great resource for digital tech businesses in this region, helping many companies here tackle some of their biggest challenges. Taking the Tech City model across the country is a great development for the whole of the UK’s digital industry and will help Britain maintain its position as a leading global player in the tech sector”

Aldo Monteforte, founder of The Floow in Sheffield:

“Sheffield, where The Floow, is based is getting a new lease of life as the digital tech community there thrives. I want to see all regions and cities around the country, many of which may have been left behind by the decline in manufacturing, get another chance. Tech Nation can help accelerate the growth of the digital tech sector in these towns and cities, bringing well-paid productive jobs and new sources of wealth to regional economies.”

David Buttress, Partner at 83North and former CEO and co-founder of Just
Eat, a Future Fifty alumni company, said:

“Tech City UK and the Future Fifty programme have given fast-growing companies like ours a great opportunity to learn from our peers and exchange ideas. They have also enabled us to get our voice heard in government, so that we can give our point of view on the way our working world is changing. That will continue to be extremely important for all emerging tech sectors.”

Wendy Tan White, partner at BGF Ventures and Board Member Tech City UK (soon to be Tech Nation):

“Tech City UK and Tech North are close to the communities that they work with and understand the issues that need to be addressed to maintain the momentum of the UK’s digital tech sector. I’m extremely excited that the birth of Tech Nation means that they will now get a chance to work with aspiring entrepreneurs and digital tech businesses in all corners of the country.”

James Wise, Partner at Balderton Capital:

“The UK has the fundamental building blocks to be the home of world-leading technology companies,  and as we look ahead at the decades to come it’s clear how important such companies will be to our success as a nation. However to seize this opportunity, we need the support and coordination of all parts of our economy, from Government, industry, research and education, and Tech City UK has demonstrated its ability to bring together these parties and build a pipeline of start-up companies. Taking its work to tech clusters across the country is a very exciting and welcome expansion of its role.”

Virraj Jatania, founder of Pockit, an Upscale company:

“Exchanging ideas with people who are going through similar things as yourself, as we do on the Upscale programme, has been a great way for me to improve my personal performance and make sure that I am sufficiently ambitious for my company. Tech City UK understands the challenges facing the sector and makes sure that people are speaking out for people like us, so that we can get on with building our businesses.”

Elizabeth Clark, chief executive of Dream Agility, in Manchester:

“From big business to enterprising startups, the North is packed with thriving digital tech businesses. Tech North has helped form an identity for lots of these but now it is time to take that ambition and drive it forward to help accelerate the digital tech sector across the country. It’s time to put regional differences behind us and concentrate all our energies on making the UK the best place in the world to run a digital tech business.”

Additional Background info:

  • Tech City UK was set up in 2011 to turn what was then a nascent start-up ecosystem in East London into a digital hub by drawing in investment and talented entrepreneurs from all over the world.
  • Six years later, London and the UK has indisputably become the digital capital of Europe, and its success has spread to other parts of the country.
  • Tech City UK is now a globally recognised brand having gained credibility within the industry and those that champion it.
  • The organisation delivering successful programmes aimed at digital tech entrepreneurs at every stage of the business lifecycle.
  • Research by SQW for DCMS in 2017 showed that Tech City UK delivered an average of 6 x return on investment in its business lifecycle programmes.
  • TCUK was funded in one year cycles in 2014 and 2015 of around £2M.   
  • Tech North funding for 3 years began in April 2014 at £2M each year up to 2018.
  • In April 2016, TCUK was awarded a four year funding grant of approximately £2m per year, decreasing over time, expiring in March 2020.
  • The Chancellor announced today a further four year funding package from 2018-2022 of £21M for a united Tech Nation. The grant will be phased on varying amounts over the four year period.  



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