Tech Nation

We’ve been busy…

Orla BrowneOrla Browne, November 29, 2017

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

At Tech City UK and Tech North we have had what might be the busiest month in our history.

In November we were the subject of a joint announcement by the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the same time we closed applications for one of our growth programmes and opened applications for another, we held two high profile pitch competition finals, five breakfast meetups, an online workshop, a sell out talk event in London streamed to four other venues in the North, and that’s only the half of it.

The big news

You may have heard the announcement earlier this month that we will be receiving £21m in funding from the Government over the next four years, to support our expansion and rebranding to Tech Nation. In the following days we announced the 11 cities/regions that will be making up the Tech Nation network, moving from a model of individual tech hubs, into one strong, interconnected and ambitious Tech Nation. 

In addition, the Home Office is doubling the number of exceptional talent visas – up from 1,000 to 2,000. Tech City UK is the designated competent body for digital technology, with the ability to endorse applications for the Tier 1 visas, so we see the increase of visa allocation as great news for the UK’s tech community.

Hello Tech Nation

Scaling together

We can’t wait to get started on building Tech Nation, but in the meantime we’ve had a very busy few weeks with our ongoing programmes.

Our free 6-month growth programme, Upscale, for Series A, scaling tech companies closed its applications for 2018 at the start of the month. We’ve had an exceptional response, reflecting the strength in depth of the UK’s scaleups. Previous Upscale companies include Monzo, Improbable, Kano and Blub. After two years, Upscale companies have now raised over $800m since joining the programme. The new cohort will be announced in January.

Just as Upscale applications closed, we opened applications for Future Fifty, our programme for high-growth late-stage digital businesses. Future Fifty is now 5 years old, and alumni have seen remarkable success over the years, with companies raising over $5.3bn in venture capital, and going through 5 IPOs and 22 mergers and acquisitions. We’re looking for the next generation of Deliveroos, Zooplas and Just Eats, and applications are open until 10th January. The Future Fifty team also gave the keynote at Numis Securities’ Disruptive Tech conference on 16th November.

Digital skills

In mid-November we launched the new and improved Digital Business Academy, made up of over 50 bitesize online tutorials aimed at teaching and honing essential digital business skills on topics like ‘how to create your product vision’, and ‘capturing data analytics’. We have now reached over 27,000 learners who are looking to start, join or grow a digital business. Our Head of Products Heika Fu wrote about the importance of making access to digital skills learning democratic in the New Statesman Skills Spotlight. We’re also going to be collaborating with the Libraries Taskforce and the British Library’s Business and IP Centre to help make the Digital Business Academy (DBA) as accessible as possible. The DBA team presented the platform at the British Library for the Business and IP Centre Question Time event during the week of the launch.


This month saw a very constructive first meeting of the Insurtech Board (IB) which was hosted by HM Treasury. The IB was created because our Fintech Delivery Panel saw a need to put in place a dedicated group bringing together key elements of the insurtech ecosystem. Prior to this there has not been a single group that brought together incumbents, startups, market bodies, and other interested parties into a single, formal group. The Insurtech Board’s purpose is to identify the key collaborative initiatives that will make a significant difference to the domestic insurtech landscape and work to accelerate their time-to-market.

An eventful week

On the 13th we held the second in our Tech Nation Talks event series, this time hosting Eric Ries, best-selling author of The Lean Startup, and the newly released The Startup Way. As well as a sell-out crowd in London, our friends at Tech North hosted viewing parties at coworking spaces in Hull, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, all tuning in to the livestream. You can see the livestream and photos of the event on our facebook page, and read more here.

The following day we partnered with Quartz and General Assembly for the event ‘The truth spectrum: from fake news to propaganda’, with a great turnout and lively discussion at WeWork Moorgate.

That week we also held the final of our Fintech For All Competition, which saw six finalists pitch their products that are helping make financial services work for everyone and improve financial inclusion. After excellent pitches across the board, the winners were announced as Pockit, in the Established Fintech category, and Mespo in the New Fintech category. We can’t wait to see what they go on to do next!

And the day after (I told you we’d been busy..) saw the Northern Stars Grand Final held in Manchester. After 20 powerful pitches (and some hard grilling from the judges) from the most promising startups in the North of England, we crowned the 10 new Northern Stars. If you didn’t manage to make it to Manchester or catch the livestream, you can watch the whole thing back here, and take a look at the photos from the night. Congratulations to the 10 winners BigChange, Membr, Nivo, Relative Insight, Rular Analytics, Sport:80, Synap, TechCompatible, Tutora and Vypr. Big things to come.

This month Tech North held Founders’ Network breakfast meetups in Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle, and held a Founders’ Network facebook live workshop covering that fateful question of how to know whether or not you should continue with an idea. If you’re based in the North of England, find out more and sign up here.

Coming up

It’s been an astonishing few weeks, but there’s no respite either. In December we’ll be launching the second Tech Nation Talent report, a Tech City UK and Tech North insights series on the talent and skills dynamics of the UK tech sector. The first report, in partnership with Nesta, looked at the nationalities of workers in the UK tech sector. The second report, in partnership with LinkedIn, will be launched in Birmingham on 15th December, and explores the distribution of workers with digital skills in the UK workforce.

Tickets are also now on sale for our third #TechNationTalks event, this time looking at Failure in tech. Is it good, is it bad, what can you learn, how can you bounce back?

Keep up to date with what we’re up to by following us on twitter @TechCityUK and @TechNorthHQ, and we welcome your support and feedback as we work to become one #TechNation