UK TECH ON THE
GLOBAL STAGE

TECH NATION REPORT 2019

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Scaleups are driving UK global tech advantage. Ambitious tech entrepreneurs across the country are more networked than ever, and they are accelerating growth through international connections.

This report presents UK tech on the global stage.

It shows that the UK is a critical hub in the global tech ecosystem, and a strong economic performer. An exploration of companies, communities and technologies uncovers the pioneers in this era of global tech.

The Tech Nation Report has been the UK’s State of the Nation report on tech since 2015. Each year we have monitored the growth of the sector, and provided information about opportunities and challenges.

In preparation for a post-Brexit world, the report this year focuses on UK tech on the global stage. The connectedness of our world-leading clusters means that we can leverage strengths and support one another across the country, in order to succeed internationally.

We would like to thank The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, World Economic Forum and The Department for International Trade.

In creating this report, the Tech Nation Insights team used data from Companies House, Dealroom, GitHub, Meetup.com, the OECD, PitchBook, Stack Overflow, Streetbees, Google Trends and World Economic Forum.

 

FOREWORDS

 

Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP, UK Prime Minister

The UK is a global tech powerhouse. I am immensely proud of our country’s ambitious tech scaleups. These companies are delivering significant economic value to the nation through the investment they raise, the jobs they create and the innovative products and services they deliver.

Not only does the digital tech sector make an essential contribution to the UK economy, it positions our nation as an innovative leader. Local economies in our towns and cities benefit from the international reach that our companies create, and the global investment they attract. They are able to do this by harnessing the world class talent the country offers, which allows them to take their UK products and services global.

Clusters built around AI, machine learning, cyber security and fintech are supporting growth, jobs and productivity in communities large and small. Ambitious people are brought together from across the world by a passion for new technologies and together become pioneers.

Backing the industries of the future is a key part of our modern industrial strategy to build a more resilient economy. As Prime Minister, I want to see our tech sector realise its extensive potential to boost communities and economies across the entire nation, by pursuing truly global aspirations.

Every entrepreneur, every innovator and every employer in the tech sector and beyond can help make this happen. Together, we can build a stronger and fairer country. We can do this by ensuring that we continue to be a hub on the global stage, and connected with our fellow innovators. Doing this will help us nurture this Tech Nation, and build a flourishing ecosystem which brings us all together.

 

Gerard Grech Chief Executive, Tech Nation

Eileen Burbidge Chair, Tech Nation and Partner, Passion Capital

The UK holds a pivotal role in the global tech sector. Ambitious tech entrepreneurs across the country are more networked than ever, and they are accelerating growth through international connections. This report presents UK tech on the global stage.

It shows that the UK is a critical hub in the global tech ecosystem and a strong economic performer. An exploration of companies, communities and technologies highlights the key elements in this era of global tech.

While tech investment was the highest in Europe in 2018,  scaleup investment also hit a record high, increasing by an astonishing 61% year-on-year. Nevertheless, there is more to do to curate learning opportunities and create fertile ground for even greater success in the future.

As global connections become ever more important for the health of our tech economy, there is a responsibility for us to understand how we can best engage with global collaborators, investors and partners. The UK is a shining light, and a nation punching well above its weight in the world, so we need to keep these connections close to mind on the scaling journey of our ambitious, high growth companies. This report gives us the insight to progress, and should be seen as a true State of the Nation, when it comes to UK tech, and its place in the world.

We would like to thank our Tech Nation community partners, various departments across the UK Government but particularly the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for International Trade, the World Economic Forum and of course, our colleagues and the board at Tech Nation — a team we are incredibly proud to be part of.

 

KEY STATISTICS

UK tech is punching above its weight

61%Investment for UK scaleup digital tech firms grew 61% between 2017 and 2018.
35%35% of Europe and Israel's 169 unicorn tech companies have been created in the UK.
2.5xScaleup tech investment was 2.5x higher than expected based on the relative size of the UK economy.
6xInvestment in AI grew almost sixfold from 2014 to 2018.
£6.3bnTotal venture capital investment in UK tech in 2018 topped £6bn, more than any other European country.
56%The recent growth rate for London tech scaleups at 56% makes the cluster first in the world for scaleup growth.
4thWith £5bn of scaleup investment, the UK ranks fourth in the world, after the US, China and India.
80%Ambitious scaleups are driving UK tech advantage - tech scaleup deals delivered the majority of all tech investments in the UK in 2018 (£5bn of over £6bn).
 

1.0 GLOBAL TECH
PERFORMANCE

With 80% of the UK's £6.3bn of tech investment being made into high-value scaleup firms in 2018, we focus on this dominant part of the tech economy.

Which countries and global cities are competing head to head for tech investment?

Scaleups are driving UK global tech advantage. Deals in these companies make up 80% of all tech investment in the country

With such a high proportion of UK tech investment being made into high-growth scaleup firms, we focus on this dominant part of the economy, using the OECD definition of "all enterprises with average annualised growth greater than 20% per annum, over a three-year period, and with ten or more employees at the beginning of the observation period. Growth is thus measured by the number of employees and by turnover."

These ambitious tech companies are creating ground-breaking products and services, disrupting national and global markets, and contributing significant economic value to the broader ecosystem.

 

1.1 SCALEUP INVESTMENT

UK is fourth in the world for scaleup investment after US, China and India

Globally, high-growth digital tech firms raised over £245 billion over the last 4 years (2015-2018). 5.2% of the global total was raised by firms in the UK, whilst US tech scaleups raised £120.9 billion, 49.3% of the global total and Chinese scaleups raised £49.9 billion, 20.4% of the global total.

Scaleups are driving UK global tech advantage

UK tech scaleup investment makes up 80% of total tech investment in the UK. This put the UK in a strong international position to continue creating tech unicorns, and driving job creation up through high growth company activity.

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook, Dealroom

UK scaleups' strength in numbers

The UK attracted 5.2% of global high-growth investment in 2018, whilst UK GDP as a whole makes up 2.2% of the global economy.

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

Total scaleup investment by country

Global scaleup tech investment, growth and company births

Click on a country to see investment over the last 4 years and companies founded from 2000-2016.
Shift + click to compare countries

Source: Tech Nation 2019; Pitchbook


In 2018, global digital tech investment increased 288% on 2017 figures, reaching a record high of just under £153 billion

In the UK, 2018 investment in scaleup digital tech firms increased by 61% - to just under £5 billion.

Global scaleup tech investment from 2015 to 2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

UK scaleup tech investment from 2015-2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

Venture capital investment into the UK’s fast-growing Artificial Intelligence sector leapt almost six fold from 2014 to 2018

Dealroom recorded 82 venture capital fundraisings above $2m across UK companies in 2018, compared with 70 the previous year. The total amount of capital raised by UK AI companies reached a record level of $1.3bn during the year, continuing a trend that has seen investment in AI companies grow sharply over the last five years.

AI startups from the UK raised almost double that of France and Germany combined

French AI companies raised $400m, while Germany’s raised $300m. Israel was second place behind the UK, when it came to raising venture capital funds. Its AI startups raised $800m.

From mid 2015 onwards, AI deals started to outpace the wider tech economy. Some 70% of all AI deals completed globally in the last decade were completed in the last three years. Over the same period, only 46.8% of total VC deals were completed.

One of the biggest AI fundraises of 2018 was Graphcore, the Bristol startup, which raised $200m from a consortium of investors. Other UK AI companies which raised funds in 2018 include Renalytix AI, a developer of AI for kidney disease diagnosis, which raised $29m through an AIM flotation, healthtech company Medopad ($26m), Upscale alumni company building HR software, Beamery ($28m) and accident and disaster recovery startup Tractable ($25m).

Investments in AI have been across all sectors, but fintech and healthtech have seen particularly strong growth. The UK counts at least five AI unicorns amongst the total number of private tech companies with a valuation of $1bn: these are Future Fifty company Darktrace ($1.7bn valuation), Benevolent AI ($2.1bn); Upscale alumni Improbable ($2bn); Graphcore ($1.7bn) and Blue Prism ($1.3bn).

Scaleup cities are spread across the globe

Top 20 global cities for scaleup tech investment from 2015-2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

San Francisco leads the global pack for tech scaleup investment at over £43 billion between 2015-2018

Stockholm is fifth, due to a small number of large deals - take Spotify’s 2018 IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, for instance. London is in sixth place, ahead of Shanghai, New York, Seoul and Berlin.

Internationally competitive scaleups are distributed across the UK

Top UK cities for scaleup tech investment from 2015-2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

London leads tech investment in the UK with £9 billion from 2015-2018, with other UK cities gaining ground.

Second is Cambridge at £583 million, and UK cities such as Newcastle, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Sheffield are within the top 20 invested tech cities.

However, some of the deals made in UK scaleup tech companies did not have location information available, or are undisclosed. Therefore, it is likely that deal size is far higher.

Investment in all tech firms is distributed across the UK

Looking beyond scaleup tech companies, over the last 12 years, distribution of investment has been far more even.

London accounts for 36% of UK tech investment, while the South East attracts 30%, and the East of England, 15%.

The East of England has seen the greatest increase in capital invested across all tech companies, at 206%. London is second, with an increase of 106% followed by the West Midlands (54%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (51%).

Adventurous capital

The vast majority of tech scaleups invested in from 2015 to 2018 were incorporated in the last 10 years

This recent boom in high-growth digital tech firms born over the last decade may indicate one of a number of trends:

  • 1) The evolution of technologies and markets mean that digital tech companies are becoming increasingly viable investment propositions.
  • 2) Culturally, investors are becoming more aware of new and emerging companies in tech, globally.
  • 3) Investors target early-stage companies in order to leverage higher levels of equity, or establish a first or early-mover advantage in a fast moving, competitive landscape.
  • 4) Firms that were incorporated in the last 10 years are more inclined to actively seek institutional investment than their predecessors, who may be funding by alternative means.
  • 5) Low global interests rates since the 2008 financial crisis have led to an abundance to capital searching higher returns. Tech companies have therefore been able to stay private, longer, while raising scaling capital from private investors.

While our data looks at venture capital investment in scaleup tech firms , there are also other sources of capital for the global tech ecosystem. Venture capital accounted for 60% of cash injections into high-growth tech firms from 2015 to 2018, with 7% coming from corporate backing and 2.9% from Angel investment. Mergers & Acquisitions also make up a significant source of capital.

Globally, SaaS scaleups received the highest levels of investment out of all tech areas in 2018, at just under £50 billion

Second largest tranche of investment was given to Ecommerce at £27 billion, followed by £15 billion invested in Big Data in 2018. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cybersecurity and Fintech were fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively - indicating that venture capital firms and other institutional investors are acknowledging and buying into the emergence of these high-growth areas.

UK tech is twinning

Cities and clusters in the UK are competing for scaleup investment on the global stage. Here are their global peers.

Clusters are matched based on the investment that companies based there have received over the last five years. We looked at the investment trajectories of these clusters, and paired them with where showed similar dynamics.

Birmingham

Birmingham

World

Atlanta

New Delhi

Brighton

Brighton

World

Perth

Siheung, China

Bristol

Bristol/Bath

World

Oslo

Marseille

Cambridge

Cambridge

World

Istanbul

Prague

Cardiff

Cardiff

World

Atlanta

Pune, India

Coventry

Coventry

World

Washington

Mölndal

Dundee

Dundee

World

Buenos Aires

Boulder

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

World

Herzliya, Israel

Strasbourg

Leamington Spa

Leamington Spa

World

Saint-Denis

Zug

Leeds

Leeds

World

Oklahoma City

Malmo

Leicester

Leicester

World

Clearwater

Orsay

London

London

World

Stockholm

San Francisco

Beijing

Luton

Luton

World

Louisville

Santa Barbara

Manchester

Manchester

World

St. Petersburg

Budapest

Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle upon Tyne

World

Montreal

Fortaleza, Brazil

Nottingham

Nottingham

World

Gothenburg

Grenoble

Sheffield

Sheffield

World

Jakarta

Nashville

Wakefield

Wakefield

World

Alexandria

Ottawa

Watford

Watford

World

Toronto

Milan

York

York

World

Cannes

Lund

Belfast

Belfast

World

Calgary

Frankfurt

Glasgow

Glasgow

World

Sofia

Montreuil

Oxford

Oxford

World

Paris

Helsinki

Reading

Reading

World

Philadelphia

Leuven

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

Sectors and the cities

It is not enough to look at overall investment - sector specialisms are important for shared connections

  • Cambridge and London are aligned with Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing and Boston for Adtech investment
  • Newcastle upon Tyne is similar to Lyon, New Delhi and San Diego for AI investment
  • London and Manchester attract similar levels of B2B payments investment as Walnut Creek (San Francisco), and Burlington, Vermont
  • Solihull, Luton, Edinburgh, Sheffield and Bristol are top sites for Cleantech investment globally, they can look to Sao Paulo, Changzou, Berlin, Amsterdam and Wichita as global twins.
  • Abingdon and Basingstoke are level with Prague, Strasbourg and San Jose for Cyber investment.
  • London, Basildon (Essex), York, Brighton and Leeds are top Ecommerce investment locations, which means they comparable to the likes of Berlin, Ottawa, Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv and Cincinnati.
  • London is top for Fintech, competing with Shenzen and Stockholm, whilst Cardiff compares to Atlanta and Berlin. Fintech investment in Edinburgh, Leicester and Exeter are on a par with Dublin, Helsinki, Milan and Tokyo, and Swansea and Cambridge are aligned with Osaka, Miami and Barcelona.
  • Leamington Spa is similar to Shenzen and Hamburg for Gaming investment. Southampton is up against with Santa Clara and Paris.
  • London compares to Moscow and San Francisco for Insurtech investment.
  • Oxford, Los Angeles and Munich draw comparable levels of SaaS investment, while Manchester aligns with Toronto and Atlanta in the same sector.

UK fintech is a world leader, with £4.5bn of scaleup investment from 2015-2018

In the UK, investments in UK high growth Fintech firms topped the charts, at £4.5bn from 2015-2018. This is followed by E-commerce, Gaming and SaaS. Compare this to global rankings for investment by sector in high growth tech firms, and the top 5 are significantly different. This highlights the UK’s relative strengths in Fintech and Gaming - showing that, on a global stage, that the UK has accrued a competitive advantage in these emerging fields.

Investment in UK tech scaleups by sub sector from 2015-2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

Deal size disparity is growing - a few monster deals are breaking new ground globally

The top deal amongst global high-growth tech companies was IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat for £27.3bn in 2018.

Red Hat is a developer of cloud-based open-source enterprise IT services.

The top deal in the UK was Skrill, an online payments company based in London that was acquired by Paysafe Group for £785m in 2015. Farfetch, a Tech Nation Future Fifty alumni company and developer of a global Ecommerce platform is the second highest deal for a UK at £678m for its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2018.

 

1.2 SCALEUP GROWTH

London's scaling

From late 2018 to present, London scaleup firms grew by over 56%, more than anywhere else globally.

Scaleup tech growth rate (revenues) by cluster from December 2018 to February 2019

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

(Note: Growth rate refers to the average weekly growth rate over the trailing eight weeks of a company’s performance.)


Lehi, Utah in the US, is second on the list - with an eight week growth rate of 33% - has been transitioning from an agricultural economy to a technological economy. This first started with the development of a microchip plant by Micron Technology, founded by Micron and Intel Corporation with headquarters in Lehi. Currently, 1 out of every 14 flash memory chips in the world is produced there. Lehi is also home to Adobe Systems, Ancestry.com, and Microsoft.

Looking at tech scaleups by country, we can see that growth rate varies to a much lesser extent. Mexico leads the field at an average of just over 2% weekly growth, whilst the UK is around the middle of the pack, with an average weekly growth rate of 0.4%.

 

1.3 SCALEUP EMPLOYMENT

The UK is a hotbed of tech talent

Tech scaleups in the the UK employ 5% of all scaleup employees globally, ahead of Japan, France and Indonesia. United States employ nearly 35% of all workers in these types of company, and China is in second place with just under 19%.

Scaleup employment by country from 2015 to 2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

Globally, Ecommerce scaleups employed the largest proportion of employees in 2018, at 27%, followed by Cybersecurity, SaaS and IoT

It wouldn’t surprise many people that in some tech sectors the higher investment correlates with the higher employee numbers. This is true in the case of Ecommerce and SaaS, but not for Big data or AI, suggesting that investment into these firms is being used not for the employment of staff to facilitate further growth, but perhaps into enabling technologies, or other assets to enhance productivity and innovative capacity.

Employment in scaleup tech sub sectors from 2015 to 2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

Insurtech and fintech talent thrives in the UK

In the UK, insurtech and fintech topped the ranking for employment among scaleup digital tech firms in 2018, with 24% and 18%, respectively.

Employment in UK scaleup tech sub sectors from 2015 to 2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

The emergence of high-growth fintech and insurtech, and the abundance of talent, are perhaps unsurprising given the UK’s historic strength in Financial Services.

 

1.4 INNOVATION

R&D is a global priority

Innovation is widely recognised as a precursor to economic growth and development. The costs of innovation in recent years have dramatically reduced due to the transformation of searching, verifying, manipulating, and communicating information. The costs of knowledge sharing, a fundamental part of the innovation process, are becoming less significant barriers to fast, effective innovation.

As well as the impact of digital on innovation, there is of course a profound new wave of technologies emerging as a result of innovation in digital.

Firms are better able to harness the needs of consumers, based on the growing availability of data, and as digital tech reduces the cost of versioning, products can be differentiated and personalised with lower overheads and greater ease. As a result, the product life cycle can be accelerated, changing the dynamics of market competition.

Diving into place-based innovation, the UK was ranked fourth in the global league table, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII). This index captures many dimensions of innovation by providing a rich database of detailed metrics for 126 economies, which represent 90.8% of the world’s population and 96.3% of global GDP.

The global leaders for R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP are Israel, Korea, and Sweden

The UK lags behind the field despite significant growth in spending in 2016.

In the UK, business and government have put significant financial resources towards the development of a knowledge-based economy. Statistics for 2017 or 2018 are not available as, being official statistics, they demand a great deal of scrutiny. However, based on the most recent data from 2016, we can see that R&D continued to grow. It increased by £1.4 billion to £33.1 billion in 2016, an increase of 4.3%, above the long-term annual average increase of 4.1% since 1990.

Total R&D expenditure in the UK in 2016 represented 1.7% of GDP, unchanged from 2015, remaining below the European Union’s provisional target of 2%. The UK is performing slightly below competitor nations in Europe, and lags considerably behind the OECD field.

R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP by country for 2016

Source: Tech Nation 2019; OECD


Funding of UK R&D from overseas fell for the second year running and was 7% lower in 2016 than the all-time high reached in 2014 of £5.6 billion.

The reasoning behind this shift in international R&D spending may be manifold. However, as will be illustrated in analysis of emerging technologies, the heat of global competition might mean that investors are more aware of efficient spending opportunities in other nations. As a result, investors are switching from the UK to other global hotspots.

 

1.5 PRODUCTIVITY

Gross domestic productivity

Despite leading on investment and growth, the UK underperforms on tech productivity

South Korea, Israel and the Netherlands are the top three nations for productivity (turnover/employees) for high growth digital tech firms.

Source: Tech Nation 2019; Pitchbook

 

2.0 PEOPLE IN TECH

Online and offline collaboration is fuelling innovation. Using data from Meetup.com, we look at the trends of informal in-person meetup groups on tech topics, and use data from digital platform GitHub to see how technical innovators are working together on cross-border digital projects and solutions.

 

2.1 MEETUPS

Mapping meetup culture, from Manchester to Mountain View

The global tech ecosystem is inherently human rather than technological; made up of entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, inventors, and innovators. Collaboration is the glue that sticks these people and organisations together.

Data from Meetup.com allows us to take a lens to these human network, understanding the places, people and themes that are defining the evolution of tech.

There are over 58,000 tech meetups globally, coalesced around active tech communities

We can use meetup interests to understand what tech topics people in a given community are interested in, and therefore as a partial proxy for the kind of development a region (e.g., city or country) is envisioning for its future.

Meetup clusters in top global tech cities by membership

Source: Tech Nation 2019; Meetup.com

Software development, data science, and professional networking are the top three meetup clusters globally, collectively accounting for 50% of meetup membership

About 20% of the meetup members participated in the rest of groups with interest in DIY, cryptocurrency, agile, mobile development, and UX.

Map of the European meetup hotspots by number of members in 2018

Source: Tech Nation 2019, Meetup.com

Tech meetup interests vary across the globe

In Bangalore 31% of the meetup members were involved in Data Science, while in Berlin 26% of meetup attendees were interested in activities related to entrepreneurship. Casual professional interests vary greatly by city and country.

Top 10 global meetup cities by number of members in 2018

Meetup clusters in top UK cities

Meetup clusters in top US cities

Source: Tech Nation 2019, Meetup.com

  • In the UK, Manchester, Belfast, and Leeds heavily focusing on the Software Development, there are considerable Entrepreneurship cluster in Cambridge and Birmingham.
  • The USA shows cluster trends similar to that of the global pattern, possibly due to the fact that United States constituted 41% of the meetup population. Los Angeles mostly focuses on Software Development and has little interest in Data Science, whilst Mountain View has a high concentration of Software Development, Data Science, and DevOps. Not just concentrated in California, there are sizeable Data Science and Entrepreneurship clusters in Washington State.

Meetup clusters in top Indian cities

Meetup clusters in top German cities

Meetup clusters in top South Korean cities

Meetup clusters in top Chinese cities

Source: Tech Nation 2019, Meetup.com

  • In India, the Data Science cluster (27%) as large as Software Development cluster (30%) across the nation. There is also a considerable presence of a DevOps cluster (12%).
  • In Germany, the entrepreneurship cluster is dominant, particularly in Berlin, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. Data Science is clustered in München, Frankfurt, and Düsseldorf, and Cryptocurrency cluster in Berlin
  • South Korea majors in crypto, at (40%), followed by Software Development (35%) and Data Science (7%)
  • China shows a huge interest in Entrepreneurship (29% vs. 17% global), particularly in Shanghai and Beijing. Beijing and Hangzhou have a greater interest in Data Science compared to Software Development

Map of US tech meetup hotspots by number of members

Source: Tech Nation 2019, Meetup.com

Social cities are creating competitive advantage from tech networks

Meetup density ratios, calculated by the total number of meetup members in a given city divided by the city's population, varied between 0% to 250% within the 26 countries.

The meetup density ratio of Manchester is 14%, suggesting that there are roughly 14 meetup members involved in tech groups for every 100 Mancunians.

By comparison, at the top end, in Mountain View, United States, the meetup density ratio is 250%, meaning every person in the city would be involved in an average of two or three tech meetups.

Meetup density in global tech clusters

CountryMeetup density of cities
United States
Mountain View (250%), San Francisco (123%), Atlanta (42%), Washington (42%), Seattle (41%), Los Angeles (37%), Austin (23%), New York (15%), Chicago (12%)

United KingdomManchester (14%), Cambridge (14%), London (13%), Belfast (8%), Bristol/Bath (5%), Newcastle (4%), Reading (3%), Edinburgh/ Glasgow (3%), Birmingham (2%), Leeds/Sheffield (2%), Cardiff (1%)

GermanyMunich (13%), Berlin (12%)

Canada Waterloo (11%)
FranceParis (22%)

Israel Tel Aviv-Yafo (90%), Herzeliyya (18%)

Netherlands Amsterdam (36%), Utrecht (12%)

Sweden Stockholm (11%)

Switzerland Zürich (25%), Zug (19%), Geneva (13%), Lausanne (12%)
IrelandDublin (11%)

New ZealandAuckland (23%), Wellington (10%)

Source: Tech Nation 2019, Meetup.com

Meetup data gives us a glimpse into the future

Most countries have very similar meetup cluster ratios to other nations, as if they are chasing the same goals. However, cities show meetup membership skewed towards certain clusters.

This suggests that the technology market on a global level is competitive rather than collaborative, whereas cities in individual nations are diversifying collaboratively in order to achieve common goals.

There are exceptions, however. Some countries are betting heavily on Software Development (Poland, Sweden, Colombia and Mexico), others are focusing on Data Science (India and Singapore) or Cryptocurrency (South Korea).

Looking at meetup density across the globe, meetup membership based around Agile made up just 4% of the total, but certainly deserves serious attention. Time management, a core utility of Agile, has been listed as one of the most desirable soft skills in 2018 and 2019 by LinkedIn.

 

2.2 ONLINE COLLABORATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Cross-border developer collaboration underpins innovation

While meetups facilitate face-to-face collaboration, increasingly collective innovation is taking place online, through digital platforms such a GitHub.

GitHub is an online platform for developers, inspired by the way developers work. It allows people to host and review code, manage projects, and build software alongside 31 million peers. The people that use GitHub tend to be technically focussed, and therefore differ from those people that attend meetups.

This section focusses on GitHub community activity across the top 30 GitHub nations.

DevOps and Front-end development define global tech collaboration

We found that DevOps (Cloud) was the most active topic of collaboration, followed by front-end developmen . These are quite different from the meetup analysis findings, where the DevOps (Cloud) cluster made up only 8% of the total meetup membership population.

Data Science consisted of 10% of the total attention from the top 30 nations compared to 18% membership in the Data Science meetups.

The general trend of the top 30 nations on GitHub was not too dissimilar to that of worldwide membership distribution on Meetup, except for DevOps; developers in the DevOps (Cloud) cluster seem to be more collaborative on GitHub (i.e. online) than on Meetup (offline).

Developer interests in the top 10 nations based on GitHub activity

Top developer discussion topics globally

Source: Tech Nation 2019; GitHub 2018

The UK is third in the world for online collaborators - behind only the US and Germany

On GitHub we find that developers from the United States are dominating the digital conversation, with 24,580 authors. 6,281 GitHub authors are from Germany, 5,501 from the United Kingdom, 3,780 from France, and 3,286 from China.

When we compare developers’ attention by nation, we find subtle but considerable differences. For example, we can see that all nations have a relatively high concentration of DevOps (Cloud) activity whilst France and the Netherlands are back-end specialists, and the UK focuses on front-end and OS/OS tools.

 

2.3 PERCEPTIONS

5,371 tech-savvy participants told us what technology means to them

We asked survey participants across 9 core markets to share their top-of-mind associations with technology: what they understand by it, how they use it, what impact it has on their lives, and which countries and companies they feel are synonymous with technological advancement. The markets surveyed were Brazil, France, Germany, India, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, UK and USA.

Source: Tech Nation 2019; Streetbees 2019

"Like it or not it’s part of my everyday life"

The association of smartphones and PCs with technology is perhaps unsurprising, yet for everyday technology to do social good, there is work to be done to raise awareness of the pervasive positive impacts of UK tech scaleups.

Tech Nation’s recent report on Tech for Social Good, showed the balance between profit and purpose is having a high impact on the environment, communities, cities, society and healthcare.

Source: Tech Nation 2019; Streetbees 2019

Overall, people has close connections between technology and physical devices. However, what these devices can achieve was also featured prominently in our responses. This highlights technology as an enabler. Things which were felt were enabled by technology include: freedom of expression, human advancement, application of knowledge, and modernity.

I trust the technology I use in my life

Source: Tech Nation 2019; Streetbees 2019

"Because so far it seems to be beneficial"

Despite much talk and column-inches of technological distrust, consumers on the whole do not share those feelings, with over 83% of global respondents confirming that they trust the technology that they use in their day-to-day lives.

And there is good reason for this, the companies that offer us services and products currently are increasingly thinking about the impact they have on societies and communities.

In our research, we found that Tech for social good is emerging – it is not a sector, but a mobilising framework for articulating the values, behaviours and attitudes that describe a focus on social impact – putting people at the heart of the business. The outcomes of tech for social good are more important than the mechanisms, they include impact on the environment, communities, health, education, mobility and transport. Organisations in this space are establishing a clear sense of identity, and showing supreme growth.

 

3.0 EMERGING TECH

From AI and Data Science to Cryptocurrency and VR - we explore the future trends of global tech growth.

 

3.1 EMERGING SPECIALISATION IN GLOBAL TECH ECOSYSTEMS

Tech nations have unique "tech scaleup DNA" profiles

Emerging technologies are growing at different rates, and becoming new ecosystem drivers. High-performance computing, and applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques offer huge opportunities.

Innovation underpins the emergence of these tech areas, and scaleups are taking the lead in the use and adoption of technologies in the UK.

UK emerging scaleup tech growth rates

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

It is important to look at the extent to which scaleup activity is concentrated in specific places, the global and regional specialisation of emerging tech activities. Newcastle, Southampton, Marlow and London perform strongly.

Global emerging scaleup tech growth rates

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

Scaleup stars

The percentages for each city below tell us about the recent eight-week growth rate for companies in that sub-sector, from December 2018 to February 2019.

Top 5 Adtech emergence

Copenhagen66.3
Berkeley62.7
Ann Arbor20.3
Moscow6.6
Portland2.9

Top 5 AI Growth

Foster City78.9
Menlo Park12.6
Newcastle upon Tyne9.0
Los Angeles6.9
Sunnyvale5.1

Top 5 Cleantech growth

Union Beach179.5
Crolles49.7
Ivry-sur-Seine39.9
Hyderabad27.2
Changzhou26.7

Top 5 Cybersecurity growth

Denver1085.7
Waltham108.1
Hallandale Beach100.0
Gothenburg66.6
Fulton23.9

Top 5 Digital Health growth

San Francisco52.4
Chicago36.4
Mölndal25.1
Los Angeles19.5
Marlow3.9

Top 5 Ecommerce growth

New York537.5
Louisville190.4
Bangalore112.9
Elkhorn100.3
Newcastle upon Tyne52.9

Top 5 EdTech growth

Noida113.8
Mumbai60.8
Oslo46.0
Bengaluru5.2
Coralville1.5

Top 5 Gaming growth

Roubaix93.9
Santa Clara71.3
Bundang-gu65.2
Southampton1.5

Top 5 SaaS growth

Redwood City863.5
American Fork396.3
London257.0
Perth147.5
Bengaluru31.6

Top 5 Fintech growth

Montreuil-sous-Bois127.6
Shenzhen104.4
Visakhapatnam56.7
Shanghai45.3
Pérols28.6

Source: Tech Nation 2019; PitchBook

Don't believe the hype

Traction of new tech, can be assessed through consumer and developer perceptions

Looking at consumer and developer perceptions of emerging tech by using data from Google Trends, we see some interesting trends over the past 10 years.

Peak Virtual Reality hit in 2015, from then it has taken a tumble

Virtual Reality (VR) started peaking from October 2015, around the time of the releases of Oculus VR, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. Public interest has generally been dwindling since then, despite subsequent releases of devices such as Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, and the announcement of Oculus Quest, which failed to garner much attention.

Augmented Reality peaked in late 2012

AR peaked in late 2012, which could be related to Google Glass announcement in April 2012, which then possibly built up the hype over the coming months. Then the product went through a long beta testing, before being released to the public on May 15, 2014. This could explain the second peak in early 2015.

Cryptocurrency reached its peak in late 2017

Awareness of virtual currencies rose considerably in early 2017, peaking between October and November, closely linked with market volatility and accompanying headlines. The 2018 cryptocurrency sell-off from January 2018 was matched by waning interest. The market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies lost $269 billon in a single quarter of 2018 (from $611 billion; 44%).

AI has been a hot tech topic for longer than we imagined

AI has been a hot tech topic for longer than we imagined, with the hype peaking in late 2011, possibly related to IBM’s Watson computer winning the Jeopardy TV game show.

Over the last few years, there has been a surge of interest in AI again. This has been sparked by comments from a number of thought leaders, including Elon Musk’s comment that “artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat”. Stephen Hawking warned AI could end mankind.

The term ‘AI’ is now ubiquitous in the global tech media. 43% of online tech media mentions AI, yet only 5.3% of tech meetups relate to AI, and only 3.2% high-growth tech companies are developing AI.

  

Recommendations

Open the UK to international collaboration and investment

We have a responsibility to make the UK the best, and easiest place for global investors, companies and people to locate here, or plug into the vibrant ecosystem across our towns and cities.

By opening up information on the rich mix of tech startup and scaleup activities here, through this report - and the cluster pages from our Entrepreneur Engagement Managers, alongside our forthcoming Open Ecosystem Map with Dealroom - we pledge to support the elevation of the UK’s international journey.

Dive into global networks

There are a multitude of opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors and government officials to become embedded in international networks. Whether they are focused on scaleup conditions, investment, development or socialising.

The reasons that stakeholders should commit to these opportunities are clear. The benefits of effective bridge-building have been articulated in this report. The positive impacts on productivity, innovation and growth can be captured.

Champion future UK tech leaders

Successful scaleup entrepreneurs are responsible for leadership, and driving high growth of their companies - which has a massive economic impact on the UK. However, we must not fail to recognise the teams of world-leading companies, and the roles they play in building the solutions that are changing the way we live, work and engage with each other. Therefore, we commit to shedding light on the jobs and skills in demand now, and informing stakeholders across the UK about the opportunities in digital tech.

The people working in these companies now also need to be championed. Alongside the UK government, and the Digital Economy Council - we will be putting these people centre stage, to inform, educate and inspire the next generation of tech leaders.

 

Methodology

Streetbees

We have surveyed 5,371 participants across 9 markets to understand what technology means to them.

First, in the initial background study we asked them to share their top-of-mind associations with technology: what they understand by it, how they use it, what impact it has on their lives, which countries and companies are synonymous with technological advancement to them. We then looked at how participants think about devices and services day after day, prompting them to log 1 or 2 examples of the significance of technology to their life.

The data presented in this report is a subset of all the data from the survey. Stay tuned for further research using this data this year.

Meetup

We collected Meetup.com data about 58,746 meetups (25,848,523 members) from 180 countries in the technology category (a link to the open data is available here). The data contained information about the description, topics, city, country, and coordinates, just to name a few, of each meetup group. In order to categorise meetups into a manageable number of clusters, we conducted a community detection analysis using the topics from each meetup and assigned the meetup to the most common community class it was associated with.

As a part of the community detection analysis, we first created an edge list without considering the direction of connection. If meetups were associated with only a single topic, the topic was repeated in order to create a pair. The edge list contained 3,581,768 pairs. Then, each pair within the list was given a weight of connection between the two items based on the frequency count of the pair in ~58 thousand meetups. The weighted edge list was then submitted to a community detection analysis using the Louvain algorithm. The community detection analysis revealed 42 communities, with 8 communities containing 91% of topics. The following data analysis considered these 8 communities only.

In order to cluster the meetup groups, the topics of each meetup were transformed to a list of community classes. Then, we assigned each meetup group into a cluster based on the mode from its community classes. When there were two or more modes, each meetup group was assigned to a cluster based on the community class that contained a greater number of topics. Furthermore, any meetups with the mode ratio (the proportion of a given meetup group’s topics found in the mode community) less than .5 were removed from the following analysis. This data exclusion process based on the mode ratio resulted in removing 10.8% of the meetup population (2,786,460), 10.8% of the meetup groups (6,326), and 1.7% of countries (3) from the following analysis. The recurring topics of each cluster are summarised in Table 1, along with the numbers of meetup groups and of the total members.

Github

We collected data of 23,841 Github repositories contributed by 186,873 authors based on the complete list of topics available from the GHTorrent project. The data contained the following columns: the number of commits (i.e., contribution) to repositories, author’s ID (ID associated with a person who made the commits), and topic associated with each repository and the author’s country codes. The data (File A) was formatted so that each row described who (i.e., author) from where (i.e., country code) committed to what (i.e., repository) with which topic. In order to group these rows into manageable clusters based on the topics, we first created a separate file (File B) using the same data above, which had a list of all repositories in one column and a list of topics associated with each repository in another column. We then conducted a community detection analysis using the list of topics (grouped by repositories) in the File B. The community detection analysis using Louvain method revealed 22 communities, with 9 communities containing 99.5% of the total topics. The following data analysis considered these 9 communities only. Since each row contained a single topic, we skipped the mode selection process applied in the Meetup data analysis. It is common on Github that developers create multiple libraries/tools with the same purpose using different languages, and therefore it would not make sense to group the repository of, for example, Java, Python, and C into a C cluster. For the sake of consistency in this report, we will call these communities clusters from now on.

Following the community detection analysis, each row was assigned to a single cluster based on its topic, and was given the portion of an author’s attention to the repository with a given topic. This portion of an author’s attention to the repository will be called weight, and the weight was calculated by the 1 (100% of the author’s attention) over the number of topics associated with the repository that the same author contributed to. For example, if repository A is associated with 10 topics and author B committed to the total of 5 topics in the repository A, then the total attention of the author’s attention to the repository is 1, and to each of the topics .2 (i.e., ⅕). The reason to weigh each row was based on the fact that our attention is limited.

Because the purpose of this data analysis was to investigate the distribution of each nation’s attention within those 9 clusters, we decided to remove the data (i.e., rows) that did not have country codes provided. 50% of the data were removed from the data analysis as a result. Since the distribution pattern of the data within the 9 clusters was similar whether the country codes were provided or not, we assumed any findings from this analysis based on the data with country codes provided were true to the rest of the whole data. The common topics of each community are provided. Since the Awesome List cluster contains a list of popular GitHub repositories rather than topics, this cluster was removed from the data analysis. Furthermore, the Testing cluster contained topics that were generic (e.g., GitHub, testing, browser, wikipedia, chrome, etc.) and therefore was removed from the analysis.

Stack Overflow

The Stack Overflow data that we collected from BigQuery on 18th Feb 2019 contained 8,917,067 questions with tags, question creation dates, answer creation dates, view counts, just to name a few. In order to categorise questions into a manageable number of groups, we conducted a community detection analysis (see the Meetup method for details) using the tags from each question and assigned each question to the most common community class it was associated with.

The edge list contained 33,487,418 pairs. Then, each pair within the list was given a weight of the connection between the two items based on the frequency count of the pair in ~8.9 million questions. The weighted edge list was then submitted to a community detection analysis using the Louvain method on Python 3.7 on Jupyter Notebook (ver. 5.7.4). The community detection analysis revealed 131 communities, with 8 communities containing 93.0% of tags. The data analysis considered those 8 communities only. Using the same method as in the Meetup data analysis, we assigned each question to a single cluster and removed any questions that were either not categorised into one of the 8 communities or had the mode ratio less than .5. This exclusion process resulted in removing 8.0% of the data (i.e., 631,434 out of 8,917,067 questions) for the following data analysis.

Dealroom

Dealroom data deals with venture capital investment and excludes debt, lending capital, grants, ICOs and other non-equity. Secondary rounds, buyouts, M&A and IPOs are also excluded. The data excludes biotech. Including biotech the UK and European investment data would make it much higher. Dealroom’s proprietary database and software aggregate data from multiple sources, including news flow aggregation and processing, web scraping and manual research. Data is verified and curated with an extensive manual process, augmented by data processing.

PitchBook

PitchBook data is used to look at international investment in digital tech scaleups. The methodology used intends to closely replicate the SIC code based definition used for official statistics. We define scaleup using the OECD definition of high growth, which means that a company has achieved growth of 20% or more in either employment or turnover year on year for at least two years, and have a minimum employee count of 10 at the start of the observation period. We query PitchBook's data using the following criteria:

  • Industry
    • Information Technology
      • Communications and Networking
      • Computer Hardware
        • Storage (IT)
      • IT Services
      • Software
      • Other Information Technology

OR

  • Verticals
    • AdTech
    • AgTech
    • AI & Machine Learning
    • AudioTech
    • Autonomous Cars
    • Big Data
    • CleanTech
    • Cyberscurity
    • E-Commerce
    • EdTech
    • Ephemeral Content
    • FinTech
    • HealthTech
    • InsurTech
    • IoT
    • Marketing Tech
    • Mobile
    • Robotics and Drones
    • SaaS
    • VR
    • Wearables & Quantified Self

Tech Nation 2019 is open

Great news. A selection of data featured in the 2018 and 2019 Tech Nation Reports is available online for non-commercial use by third parties. Some data you see in the report is not included, due to restrictions on publishing the data.

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.

The Tech Nation team that worked on this report includes:

Amy Irish, Angela Logan, Anne Marie Nicholls, Bien King, Diana Akanho, Dominic D’Arcy, Eoin Marsh, Francesca Cahill, Gary Davidson, George Windsor, Georgina Hardy, Gino Brancazio, Jae Lee, Jamie Hardesty, Jem Henderson, Kane Fulton, Lindy Pyrah, Liz Stevenson, Lucy Cousins, Maria Palmieri, Mo Aldalou, Nadina Osmani, Naomi Watts, Orla Browne, Paul Abbott, Vicky Hunter , Will Dolby

This report benefited greatly by feedback from Gerard Grech, Will Miller, and support from all colleagues at Tech Nation.

 

UK regions

Find out more about the tech communities and ecosystems thriving right across the UK, and connect with a Tech Nation Entrepreneur Engagement Manager near you.

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