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The future
UK tech built

Tech Nation Report 2021


Key statistics

UK tech VC investment is third in the world, hitting a record high of $15bn in 2020 in the face of challenging conditions

UK deep tech investment rose by 17% in 2020, the highest rate of growth globally

The UK is more attractive to international investors than ever; 63% of investment into UK tech came from overseas in 2020, up from 50% in 2016

The UK is third in the world for investment into impact tech, which has increased 160% since 2018 while in the US it rose by 15% over the same period

London is fourth for tech VC investment globally behind San Francisco, Beijing and New York at $10.6bn

The UK tech startup and scaleup ecosystem is valued at $585bn - 120% more than in 2017, and more than double the next most valuable ecosystem, Germany, at $291bn 

Investment in seed stage companies is decreasing as a proportion of overall tech VC investment (14% to 6% over 5 years), and series B and C investment is rising in the UK

Tech is becoming more important for the UK economy. The rate of tech GVA contribution to the UK economy has grown on average by 7% per year since 2016

Get to grips with the interactive features

Take the tours

No scrolling needed to experience three curated journeys through the report with the same interactive charts and some extra commentary. Choose from 2020 highlights for a snapshot of the past year; Global context for an international outlook and comparison; Looking ahead for year-on-year trends and what this means for the future of the tech sector. 

Jump around

Click on the chapter title in the sidebar navigation to jump to that section, or if you know exactly what you’re looking for, click to expand the chapter title in the sidebar for a clickable list of subsections within that chapter.

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Take the tour

To help you get the most out of the Tech Nation Report, we have created three themed tours for you to explore.

What stands out in a year like no other?
How does the UK compare to other tech hubs around the world?
What do year-on-year trends tell us about the future of UK tech?


The Prime Minister

The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP

They say necessity is the mother of invention. It has been a year in which the brutal necessity of restricting human contact has escalated the importance of tech of all kinds, from the NHS app to Zoom calls.

So it is perhaps not surprising that in spite of Covid – or even because of Covid – the UK is maintaining its lead as one of the world’s premier centres for tech of all kinds. 

2020 saw UK companies attract more than twice as much VC funding as our nearest European competitor. London alone benefited from more investment than the next three leading cities put together.

Unicorns now roam the streets of cities across England, Scotland and Wales. This isn’t just great news for the entrepreneurs and thinkers and do-ers who make the British tech industry what it is. As the sector grows and grows it contributes more and more to our economy, a silicon supercharge that benefits us all. 

And that’s before we even get to the tech itself, the sparks of ideas that, properly funded and fanned, can change the way we live, work, play and even think about life.

2020 was, after all, the year in which millions of children were forced to leave their classrooms and start learning online – and UK edtech was there to support them. 

In North West England we saw an increase in health tech investment of over 200 per cent, while across the UK our digital sector continues to make an enormous contribution to fighting the pandemic: from connecting locked-down patients with their GPs to offering NHS staff free access to workplace mental health platforms.

And with COP26 on the horizon, I was particularly pleased to see another record year for British clean tech – helping us all take the steps we will need to deliver a net zero world by 2050.

None of this has happened by accident. While the real credit lies, as ever, with the engineers and designers toiling away at laptops across the country, I’m immensely proud to lead a government that is so comprehensively committed to supporting the sector. 

We’re continuing to invest in your success. And, while the history of innovation is littered with tales of those who tumbled from the pantheon after becoming too complacent, I hope that the winning combination of UK tech and this government will lead us to yet another record-breaking year in 2021.

Tech Nation Chief Executive

Gerard Grech

History has many examples of periods of enormous challenge being followed by a surge of creativity. In the UK today, COVID is proving to be an instigator for a new wave of innovation. 

In healthtech, Oxford Nanopore Technologies is part of the global battle against COVID-19. In edtech, a generation of UK tech companies like Developing Experts and Firefly Learning has helped a generation of students learn from home. And in the drive to Net Zero, businesses like Connected Kerb, Bulb and Tepeo are helping our vehicles go green and making our energy clean.

The Tech Nation Report 2021 sets out the huge progress taking place in the UK tech sector at this crucial time in our history. Among the many highlights in the report, three shine especially brightly.  

First, in 2020, amid a global pandemic, tech venture capital investment in the UK hit a record high of $15 billion. This positions Britain third in the world behind the US and China - and this year the gap between the UK and those two global powers is closing compared to previous years. Furthermore, both the US and China are investing more in UK tech companies than ever before. 

Secondly, 2020 was a record year for investment in deep tech jumping by 17 per cent to just under $4 billion. From blockchain to biotech, this AI-driven sector is the bedrock upon which much of our future will be built. 

Thirdly, the UK has experienced a surge in investment in impact tech. These are companies and products that have a positive impact on our environment and society as a whole. Our figures have more than doubled since 2018 to $2.6 billion, which once again puts the UK third in the world behind the US and China. 

The UK’s tech success is the result of foresight, drive and dynamism. The strong and growing tech ecosystem we have nurtured over the years is delivering stellar results. I believe that this is just the beginning of what the UK can achieve.  

Tech Nation is playing its role by fuelling the growth of the companies and founders transforming society and the economy. We have had the privilege now of working directly with thousands of businesses in our community, including 800 which have been through our growth programmes valued at over $110 billion. In 2020 we engaged with a record number of companies, processed another record number of Tech Visas applications and boosted our own contribution to the UK economy to over $675 million thus far. 

I would like to personally thank the team at Tech Nation for making this report possible, our board and chair, our advisory panel, as well as our data and knowledge partners for their support over the last year. 

2021 provides us with a unique opportunity to rebuild with tech at the very heart of our economy. This is the moment for the private and public sector to work together to support founders from all four corners of the country to do extraordinary things in extraordinary times.



Supporting partner

Oliver Wyman commentary

Even in the face of continued COVID-19 disruption, technology offers us endless possibilities to manage risk and forge a better future. Now more than ever is the time for businesses to define a new era of tech-enabled growth and sustainability that delivers benefits for everyone.

This year’s report sets the scene for recovery and reinvention, so we can create more resilient workplaces, organisations, industries, and societies. In a post-Brexit landscape, it is crucial that we boost our economy by strengthening our position as a technology world leader.

Of course, the UK is already a leader in attracting investment in technology. International competition landscapes may be shifting, but London will continue to be an IPO hotspot for bringing the most promising new ventures to life. We must use technology, however, to help level up the whole population, ensuring all have the career opportunities they deserve. It’s positive to see the increasing levels of investment across the country but more will be needed.

Technology and data analytics will help business leaders address challenges that are tougher and more urgent than ever before. At Oliver Wyman we are playing a leading role in helping businesses transform their operations so they can overcome issues that are tougher and more urgent than ever before. We are confident that advancements in sectors such as healthcare, transportation, energy, and education will help people lead better lives.

Technology will also be essential in tackling climate risk and in fighting cyber- and financial crime. It has the potential to provide solutions that are not just commercially compelling but that lead us to do the right thing for society. It’s for these reasons that we are delighted to partner with TechNation on their journey to help the UK tech sector thrive.

Data partners

In creating this report, the Tech Nation Insights team used data, and benefitted from the knowledge and support of Dealroom, Adzuna, TalentUp, Pitchbook, Crunchbase, Streetbees, SEMrush and the Office for National Statistics.

Knowledge partners

Many thanks to our Knowledge partners for the Tech Nation Report 2021; London Stock Exchange, The University of Edinburgh Futures Institute and Traveltech for Scotland, Findexable, and the Creative Industries Council.

Special thanks to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for their advice and support.

Tech Nation Report Steering Group

Tech Nation Report Steering group have been pivotal to the results presented in this report. Their invaluable feedback, insights and experience in guiding analysis and interpretation of results is much appreciated.


Executive summary

UK tech pioneers are creating the future. In the face of extreme challenge, profound disruption and deep uncertainty, resilient tech leaders are rebuilding our economy. They are developing groundbreaking technologies, creating new jobs and supporting societies to thrive across the world.

The Tech Nation Report has been the UK's state of the nation report on tech since 2015. But in 2021, looking to tech's past achievements is not good enough. We focus on what’s next for UK tech; the challenges that are being faced by stakeholders in the ecosystem; and how scaling companies have the potential to build back in a way that delivers benefit for everyone. 

The UK has been historically strong in deep tech: R&D intensive, innovative tech developments. But in order to continue this global leadership, more investment and emphasis will need to be placed on both new tech creation and application. From healthtech and fintech to Net Zero and edtech, the Tech Nation Report captures the transformative impact of technology and the companies developing and applying groundbreaking tech, and assess the effect this is having on people the world over. 


and tech


Global tech investment

UK tech VC investment continued to catch up with China, hitting a record high of $15bn in 2020

The UK witnessed another record year for VC investment in tech in 2020, strengthening its position as third in the world for tech behind only China and the US. 

Uncertainty stalled investment in the first half of 2020, but it rocketed in the second 


A year of transformation

Kieran Hill, Partner

Ascension Ventures

2020 was an unquestionably transformative year for the UK tech ecosystem. The entire workforce was thrust into working out of bedrooms and living rooms, and a complete reliance on technology to keep everyone communicating, collaborating and building, which saw digital transformation accelerated 10x quicker than even the biggest proponents were predicting in 2019. This led to a whole new generation of startups being created, built completely remotely from day 1 and redefining the playbook for how they raised money, hired talent and marketed their products and services.   

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The social and economic strains of the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit of the European Union created a backdrop of uncertainty in 2020, also reflected in the investment trends. Investment was considerably lower in the first half of the year than the second, where it picked up to record quarterly levels.

UK and US tech VC investment rises, whilst China sees the second drop in two years running, and Indian investment decreases in 2020

While UK firms secured an investment increase of around $200m, and the US picked back up from a slump in 2019, VC investment into China dropped for the second year in a row, to $45bn. Nevertheless, this is a significant slowing of the 60% investment decrease for China between 2018 and 2019, and the nation continues to hold a strong second place in the global rankings.

India experienced a slight drop in investment in 2020; hitherto, it had closely tracked the UK in both year-on-year patterns and overall investment volume. In 2020, investment for India was $13.3bn, a 13% decrease on 2019’s $15.1bn.

Case study

Expanding to North America and Asia Pacific

Stuart Harvey


We are seeking to grow our business in North America, and gain a foothold in Asia Pacific. Both markets are major financial centres and are ripe with data management opportunity. Our plan is to fully assess these markets over the course of 2021-22 with support from Invest NI's Graduate to Export scheme, alongside our usual work to develop business opportunities and strategic partnerships in the regions.

London is fourth for tech VC investment globally (with $10.6bn), behind San Francisco ($21.6bn), Beijing ($16.6bn) and New York $15.2bn), and closely followed by Shanghai ($10.5bn)

In 2020 US cities have pushed European counterparts down the rankings – with Berlin moving from eighth to 16th, and Paris from 13th to 15th place. London has held its position at fourth in the world for VC investment in tech, but the gap between the UK capital and Shanghai has decreased by $100m between 2019 and 2020.

Global VC investment in top tech cities reaches a plateau; San Francisco, Beijing and New York all reported reduced or stable VC investment on 2019

Of the top five tech cities globally, only Shanghai has seen a real increase in investment from 2019 to 2020. Looking at the top ten places, European cities have been forced out, with a new wave of emerging US hubs taking the stage; Cambridge (US) and Boston on the East Coast, and Bay Area cities on the West Coast dominate the rankings.

Looking at the top fifty cities in the world for tech investment, nine of the top 10 cities with the highest investment increase between 2019 and 2020 are in the US, and one is in Asia: Jakarta. While many UK cities saw a significant increase in investment in 2020, the base from which they started excludes them from this global city view; often magnitudes separate the top ten cities from cities in Europe, with exception for some capital cities.

Healthtech dominates global tech investment ($65bn raised in 2020), and tech investment in core parts of the economy (like energy and education) is on the rise

While healthtech is second in the UK for VC investment, followed closely by enterprise software, globally the picture is very different. Health and transport are top of the global rankings for VC investment – comprising 19% and 13% of total global VC investment. 


Global capital flows

In 2020, 63% of investment into UK tech came from overseas, up from 50% in 2016

Since 2016, investment from outside the UK has steadily increased. It reached its peak in 2019, at 69% of total VC investment before dropping by 6% in 2020. Last year, domestic investment made up a slightly higher proportion of the total, at 37%. Nevertheless, the UK tech ecosystem remains an attractive proposition for international investors, despite challenging conditions.

Megarounds are dominated by North American investors, who make up 62% of £250m+ deals

In 2020 the proportion of non-UK investment into UK tech has shifted gears again; non-UK investment now makes up 63% of total VC funding. For later-stage investments this is even more pronounced; 65% of the number of rounds between $100m and $250m, and 76% of rounds $250m+ included a non-European or non-UK investor in 2020. 

On the one hand, this could be seen as a sign of strength and burgeoning international reputation for investment returns in UK tech, but on the other, this may be seen as potentially problematic if UK tech firms with significant profit and influence are owned by non-UK actors.


UK tech performance

Gross Value Added (GVA) by digital tech (the contribution tech makes to the UK economy) is on the rise

UK tech GVA increased from £104bn to £149bn from 2010 to 2018, and has grown by 7% on average, year on year for the last three years. 

There were 7 new unicorns in the UK in 2020, taking the total to 80; more than Germany and France combined

The unicorn class of 2020 included Hopin, Gousto, Arrival, Cazoo, Gymshark, Infobip and Octopus Energy. 

There are nearly three million jobs in the digital tech economy, more than either Construction (1.9m) or Financial Services (1.2m)

The UK tech startup and scaleup ecosystem is valued at $585bn – more than double the next most valuable ecosystem, Germany, at $291bn


UK sector strengths

Fintech a UK VC investment stronghold; the UK is second in the world, despite a drop in VC investment and growing debt finance


The future of UK Fintech

Tim Levene, CEO

Augmentum Fintech

Fintech was at the forefront of the UK technology sector’s step-change in 2020, driven largely by the pandemic accelerating digital adoption. We have continued to see the UK fintech sector attracting a significant level of investment, despite the disruption in the market caused by Brexit and Covid. A notable development was the arrival in Europe of a number of the large, international tech-focused investment firms from overseas, which both deepens and validates the UK’s fintech ecosystem. Looking at the fintech industry, the spotlight on revenue-based financing, DeFi and payments in particular intensified in 2020, with maturing, accelerating challengers attracting increasing investment, a trend we expect to continue in 2021.

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The UK is third in the world for impact tech investment. Investment has more than doubled since 2018 (160% increase) while in the US, it rose by 15% over the same period

European startups are more impact-focused than their global peers. The UK has had a surge in impact investing – with a 9.5x increase between 2014 and 2019. 

Impact investing now accounts for 15% of total European VC investment, a 3x increase when compared to a decade ago, and more than double the global average of 7%. 


Investing in tech for good

Cansu Deniz Bayrak

Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV)

At BGV, Europe’s leading early-stage tech for good VC, we've been investing for a sustainable planet, a better society and healthier lives since 2012. We define tech for good as tech and tech-enabled products and services, inclusive and affordable by design, built by a diverse set of founders with an intention to positively impact millions of lives globally. As is obvious from this report's People and Tech chapter, this is a perfect storm - the next generation of wealth, founders and consumers are all looking to support tech for good.

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The biggest rounds for UK impact startups in 2020 can be found here, including Octopus Energy, Arrival, Connexin (based in Hull), Tokamak Energy (based in Abingdon), Compass Pathways, Cera, Highview Power, Five ( based in Cambridge), The Meatless Farm Company (based in Leeds).

Climate tech companies, which includes electric vehicles, have attracted the most investment within the impact subsector, with European players emerging as global market leaders. European companies working to tackle climate change and its impacts have attracted €9.8bn in VC investment in the last five years. 

UK deep tech investment is rising at an unmatched rate while some global competitors have seen decreases in investment

UK deep tech investment is third globally, but the volume invested equals only around a tenth of that made into US companies

This is where the UK may start to encounter difficulties; in deep tech, VC investment is not the only factor that counts. R&D expenditure, which is a gauge of development activities in both the public and private sectors, is an indicator of the extent to which forward-facing investments in capability building are being conducted, and the UK is falling behind some global players.

In 2018, UK R&D expenditure (public and private spending) was just under £30bn, while in the same year, the combined R&D expenditure of Amazon and Alphabet (on their own R&D activities) was £33bn.


UK tech IPOs

Tech and consumer internet firms accounted for 40% all the capital raised through IPOs on London Stock Exchange in 2020

The momentum behind London tech IPOs gathered pace and strength in 2020. Tech and consumer internet firms accounted for 40% all the capital raised through IPOs on the London Stock Exchange in 2020, demonstrating strong investor appetite for the sector. 

There has been continuous year-on-year growth in capital raised; £3.1bn was raised in 2020 compared to £2.4bn in 2019. The eight tech IPOs in London in 2020 raised twice the amount of capital compared to the 16 tech IPOs in 2018 (£1.6bn). More than two-fifths (41%) of the total amount raised by the 44 tech IPOs in London in the past five years was raised in 2020.

A notable highlight in 2020 was THG, Europe’s largest-ever eCommerce IPO, which raised £1.9bn at a market capitalisation of £5.4bn and has subsequently demonstrated strong aftermarket performance. Despite the pandemic, IPOs have taken place swiftly: Fonix achieved its IPO in 11 weeks.

Tech and consumer internet firms return to the market for follow-on capital

CompanyFO Capital Raised (£m)Use of Proceeds
Aveva Group2,847Acquisitions
Ocado Group836General Corporate Purposes
Just Eat Takeaway.com352Repay Debt, Future Acquisitions
Blue Prism269General Corporate Purposes
GB Group262Acquisitions
ASOS247General Corporate Purposes
RWS Holdings225Acquisitions
Network International205Acquisitions
Boohoo Group198General Corporate Purposes

In 2020, tech and consumer internet firms raised £7bn in follow-on capital, enabling them to acquire and invest at scale and speed. Despite the pandemic, technology companies have been able to use their public listing to raise capital on tight timetables – something that they would have been unable to achieve in the private realm. PCI-PAL’s follow-on fundraising took place in less than three weeks. 

This shows how listed tech companies are able to draw on investor support to drive their businesses forward, financing ambitious growth strategies with long-term, repeat capital raisings.

London Stock Exchange-listed companies have been energetic in exploiting their stock as an acquisition currency: since 2016, they have used their stock to buy businesses in 51 countries - more than any other exchange in the world. Tech companies including Aveva, GBG, LTG, Kape and Ocado have all been able to execute significant acquisitions of US businesses.

Tech outperforms FTSE All-Share

2020 demonstrated the rapid maturing of London’s tech sector. For some time, public market investors have demonstrated their appetite for the sector and its future growth potential; this is reflected in the long-running outperformance of both the FTSE All Share Technology and the FTSE AIM All Share Technology indexes relative to the FTSE All-Share.

Tech companies that list in London achieve multi-billion valuations as well as a high degree of visibility against their global peers: London-listed tech companies such as Avast, Auto Trader and Rightmove trade at a premium when compared with their US peers. 

Genuine liquidity – the level of demand among institutional and retail investors to invest in stocks for long-term growth rather than just the volume of reported trades – is as strong in London as any global exchange.

The London Stock Exchange is home to a diverse mix of firms of all sizes

The UK ranks third in the world for its number of unicorns but billion-dollar valuations have never been necessary to execute a successful IPO in London. London is open to tech firms of all sizes, sub-sectors and nationalities, as evidenced by the breadth of the IPOs in 2020 – Kooth, THG, Guild eSports, Mode Global Holdings, Kaspi, Calnex, Fonix and Bytes.

Currently 188 tech and consumer internet firms are listed in London with an aggregate market capitalisation of £156bn. 

London provides a diverse investor base with access to US investors

Two strong trends have been clear in 2020 – both of them benefit tech and consumer internet firms seeking to IPO in London. The first is that demand from US investors has been strong and prevalent across London’s markets; US investors can and do invest in UK tech companies. Thirty per cent of institutional investors in tech and consumer internet firms on London markets come from North America.

The second trend is the strong and ongoing demand for UK tech IPOs from UK institutional investors, who currently comprise 56% of the investor base in tech and consumer internet firms.

The high level of institutional demand is coming from a diverse base of major domestic and international investors. The UK institutions that were the biggest supporters of London IPOs in 2020 were Baillie Gifford, BlackRock, Standard Life, Jupiter and Liontrust; the most active international institutions were Capital Research & Management, Vanguard, BlackRock, Norges Bank and Invesco.


Emerging tech
and future


Emerging tech and economic growth

Deborah O'Neill, Partner and Head of Digital, UK and Ireland

Oliver Wyman

We all know that sustainable economic growth in the UK can only be realised through new, emerging technologies being developed across all industries and regions.

Despite the damaging impact of COVID-19 to our economy, I’m delighted that the findings in the report clearly indicate that the UK continues to be a leader in Europe for attracting investment in technology, with our fastest growing sectors being Mobility Tech, Food Tech and Insure Tech. Investment in these sectors continues to be way ahead of the global average.

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Future sectors

Mobility Tech

Mobility tech companies are creating solutions within the automotive, transportation and shipping industries. Innovations driven by the digital economy open up opportunities to provide products that are more cost-efficient, like electric vehicles, autonomous driving technologies and mobile connectivity. 2020 was a record year for global investment which increased 12% to $45.8bn. In the UK, investment grew from $681m in 2019 to $2.2bn in 2020.


TravelTech companies are using new technologies to provide products and services for the travel and tourism industry. This includes automated booking and payment services for flights, accommodation and other travel related activities. 

The wave of innovation across Traveltech companies also enables the use of contactless customer service and augmented digital experiences enabling the ability to reach new international customers. 

Globally, Traveltech investment was $14.8bn in 2020, a 14% decrease on $17.4bn received in 2019 which was a record year for investment. However investment in UK TravelTech continued to accelerate reaching $515mn in 2020, a 12% increase on 2019 despite the pandemic.


Food technology (food tech) companies are developing products and services for applications like food waste, meal kits, recipe boxes and restaurant technology. Globally, 2020 was a record year for food tech investment, with a 13.8% increase to $20bn. UK companies also experienced soaring investment into food tech companies with $968m compared to $315m in 2019.


Insurance technology (insurtech) companies are improving the processes across the insurance value-chain and marketplace. The services provided include quote comparison websites, insurance telematics, home automation, peer-to-peer insurance, online brokers, cyber insurance, underwriting software and claims software. Global insurtech investment grew 13% from 2019 to $6.51bn. UK-based companies received 61% more investment in 2020 with $360m.

Case study

The bright side of life insurance

Phil Zeidler

Dead Happy (HQ in the West Midlands)

The Life Insurance industry is evidently failing. In the UK alone there are 8.5million people who have dependants or liabilities who have no protection products in place if they die. This means that at the most difficult of times when a family is grieving the death of a loved one, their troubles may be compounded by being thrown into financial trouble as well. Yet the industry has failed to develop simple, easy to use products that can be bought online to meet those customers needs.

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Tech innovation

This section looks at investment in fundamental technologies, to give a gauge of tech innovation on an international basis.

The use of primary technologies is pivotal when building new innovative platforms. Investment in these technologies as a proportion of total investment can indicate the evolution of a tech cluster. One of these technologies is artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI and ML). AI and ML are now key foundations for many new platforms; in fact, in Europe 378 deals were completed within ‘Big Data’ companies in 2020, and 91% used AI and ML. The other vital technologies for innovation are robotics and drones; augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR); Internet of Things (IoT); and blockchain and cryptocurrency.

European companies received $552bn in artificial intelligence investment in 2020, a 25% increase from 2019. In 2020, $546m was invested into robotics and drones, $547m into augmented reality and virtual Reality, $1.2bn into (IoT) and $750m into blockchain and cryptocurrency companies.

Norway had the highest proportion of VC investment into these foundational technologies accounting for 75% of total investment, followed by the United Kingdom with 54% and South Africa with 40%. In Israel, 34% of total investment went to AI, compared to 25% in Norway and 21% in Poland. 

Fundamental technology investment as a % of all emerging tech investment in 2020

International Comparison

Chinese companies had the largest share of international VC investment in edtech with $8.9bn in 2020, followed by the United States with $2.3bn. The UK has the highest investment level in Europe with $124m, followed by Germany with $60m, the Netherlands with $35m and France $25m. Within createch, US companies lead investment with $4.6bn, followed by China with $1.2bn, the UK with $744m, France with $447m, the Netherlands with $45m and Germany with $40m. 

Health and wellness companies in the US raised $25bn, followed by China with $4.7bn, the UK with $1.5bn, France with $1.4bn, the Netherlands with $200m and Germany with $134m. For climate and agriculture, US companies raised $15bn, followed by China with $4.1bn, Germany with $1.4bn, France with $893m, the UK with $798m, and the Netherlands with $274m.

Number of emerging tech deals made from 2017 to 2020 by country

Emerging tech investment from 2017 to 2020 by country ($bn)

Case study

Pioneering applied AI

Dave Palmer

Darktrace (HQ in the East of England)

Darktrace is an AI company founded in 2013, and we were first to apply artificial intelligence to the cyber security challenge. Since Darktrace’s inception almost 8 years ago, we have made leaps and bounds in the advancement of cyber AI – developing AI that takes on the role of observer, investigator and first responder to cyber-threats.Our AI gives machines a sense of ‘self’, which allows them to understand if a cyber-attack is occurring, and then to interrupt that attack in real time. This is what we call ‘self-learning AI’ and today it protects over 4,500 organizations around the world against all sorts of sophisticated and stealthy threats. Today, Darktrace has over 1,500 employees across 44 global offices. Our headquarters remain where the advanced mathematics behind our technology was first born – Cambridge. 

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and tech


Consumer tech habits

To explore public views on technology, consumer habits and the impact of Covid-19, a number of questions were put to 1,437 survey participants over the age of 18 across the UK, the US, and Singapore.

Generally, the US and the UK show similarities, however, we start to see differences in Singapore and when we drill down to the UK regions.

Technology plays an important role in our everyday lives, especially as we are living through a pandemic. Since technology is embedded across many use-cases, we asked “What does technology mean to you?” to gather responses on what people associate with technology. The top 5 responses to this question across the UK, US and Singapore are shown in the table below.

Across all respondents the top two associations were ‘anything that makes life easier’ and ‘devices/gadgets’. 

In the UK, 35% of respondents associate devices/gadgets and ‘anything that makes life easier’ with technology, showing no difference between the top two choices, Whereas in the US and Singapore there was an 11% and 19% difference between these top two associations.

Devices / gadgets35%Anything that makes life easier40%Anything that makes life easier33%
Anything that makes life easier35%Devices / gadgets21%Devices / gadgets22%
Anything electronic22%Convenience15%Anything electronic20%
Part of everyday life11%Efficiency13%Innovation / progress12%
Connection11%Innovation / progress11%Part of everyday life11%

I’m fascinated by people and technology and the problems they solve together. To me technology means making processes more seamless and automatic allowing us to have a completely different perspective on the world where it can be used to disrupt every single industry.” UK respondent aged 25

The UK and US have similar views as to what technology means to them compared to Singapore. In the UK, 11% of respondents said that technology means ‘part of everyday life’ and ‘connection’ and these percentages were similar in the US. However, in Singapore this was at 6% and 5% respectively. 

In the UK, only 3% associate technology personally with efficiency and convenience – much less than in Singapore where 15% of respondents say convenience is what tech means to them.

‘Freedom’ and ‘intrusion/invasion of privacy’ were what people associated the least with technology. 

Tech and Covid-19

“Has your engagement with technology changed, due to the covid-19 pandemic?”

In the UK, on average 66% of those aged 18-45 said that their engagement with technology has changed, compared to 50% of over 46, showing more than 15% difference.

Just over 50% in the US said their engagement has changed, almost 25% less than those in Singapore (73%).

“What changes have you made to the way you engage with technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic?”

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant people are using technology more for communication, general engagement, and for work or school. According to Ofcom, adults in the UK spent an average of four hours online per day in April 2020, up from three and a half hours a day in September 2019. 

The increase in tech engagement during the pandemic is three times more in the UK than in Singapore. This could be due to Singapore’s advanced tech infrastructure; in 2019, Singapore was ranked as the world’s most competitive economy.

The US is using technology more overall and Singapore is using it more for shopping, five times more than the US and almost twice that of the UK.

Just as we saw an increase in VC investment into edtech, there has also been an upward shift in ‘learning new skills’ via technology, with 6% and 4% of respondents from Singapore and the US respectively identifying this as a change during the pandemic.  

The UK is behind the US and Singapore for using tech for work or school, but ahead for increasing usage of phones social media. 

In the UK, 12% said they were using technology more in general in their everyday life. Beyond the everyday reliance on technology, 23% said they have ‘engaged with technology more’ due to the pandemic, meaning specific and proactive attention is paid to the technology used, instead of passively using it. 

Examples of changes to the way people have engaged with technology due to the Covid-19 pandemic include shopping online, working from home, and communicating:

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has helped a lot, like I can shop online, order food through the app, watch shows and lives on the internet and even sometimes work inside the house without paying to go to the street. without today's technology, the situation would be difficult .. perhaps more difficult than the current world with its difficult problems to solve.” Male, UK, aged 30

During Covid I am using technology more for work meetings and personal communication. At work we are using Skype for meeting at work and using Skype for business for business calls.At home I am using Zoom for meeting or communicating with family. Also I am using Zoom more educational purposes.” Female, US, aged 46

With work, real life conversations become possible through Zoom, with friends, conversations are through chatting platforms. I spend more time at home, and so the usage of social media platforms like Twitter increases.” Female, Singapore, aged 38

Case study

Robotics for social distancing

Brian Palmer

Tharsus (HQ in North East England)

We are a designer and manufacturer of what we call Strategic Machines. Strategic Machines are automated / robotic solutions which enable our customers to solve tough challenges, disrupt their markets and gain significant commercial advantage over their competitors.

Click to read more

Impacts of Tech during Covid-19

“What role has technology played for you personally during COVID-19?”

Globally, technology has helped people to reduce their loneliness, socialise and keep up with their work. During the Covid-19 pandemic there were major shifts in which people had to work from home. According to data from the ONS, in April 2020 47% of those in employment did some amount of work at home. As of January 2021, 55% of the UK workforce were working from home. 

It is no surprise then, that when asked what app has been relied on the most during the pandemic, social networking apps came out on top – in particular, WhatsApp. Currently  mobile internet penetration in the UK, is at 90%.

“Name ONE application you have relied upon the most during COVID-19”

There were some key differences across the UK regions and the list below shows the differences in the type of services consumers have relied on during the pandemic:

There were some key differences across the UK regions and the list below demonstrates the varying type of services consumers have relied on during the pandemic:

  • Uber Eats - East of England, North East, South West
  • Monzo - London, North East, Scotland, South East, North West
  • Deliveroo - South East
  • Paypal - South West
  • Spotify - East Midlands, North West
  • Strava - East of England, Scotland, Wales
  • Apple Fitness+ - North East
  • Fitbit - Northern Ireland
  • Olio - South West

“I have relied on Deliveroo, because it is convenient and easy to use, I use it for takeaway as restaurants were shut and sometimes I can't get to the shops for groceries shopping due to lockdown” Male, 43, UK

“When work had to suddenly work from home it wasn’t set up for mass remote working- before it established internal teleconferencing infrastructure, zoom was quick to install and use to connect with colleagues. Because everyone had it with work it was easy to transition to social use too” Female, 29, UK

Global consumer trends during covid

Consumers’ online interactions

The pandemic has no doubt changed the way consumers interact both with services and one another. According to recent research on the impact of digital surge during Covid-19 pandemic, we know this has impacted many areas of our lives for people all over the world.

As the world was forced to shift to a digital presence for work and socialising, how have we, as people and consumers, adapted to this?

Under 38s are more confident online and over 38s are more confident face-to-face

The older we are, the less likely we are to feel more confident expressing ourselves online than face-to-face; 50% of millennials agreed with the following statement: ‘I feel more confident expressing myself online than face-to-face’

Case study

Countering online misinformation

Lyric Jain

Logically (HQ in Yorkshire)

Logically was founded by Lyric Jain in 2017 after he witnessed the discord and polarisation caused by online discussion around the US election and EU referendum vote in the UK. He was determined to find a way to give people the tools they need to identify and disarm damaging and misleading information being shared online. Having started the business with just a couple of data scientists and a front end developer, the company now employs over 100 people on three continents: the UK, US and India.

Click to read more

Tech literacy is increasing

According to research from Global Web Index, those who identified themselves as ‘less tech literate’ within the US and UK were more likely than average to continue with online communication post-lockdown when restrictions on socialising are relaxed.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that people have been forced into the digital space as globally we became dependent on it for our day-to-day functioning. Technology has become an essential enabler even for those who would have previously been reluctant to use technology on a day-to-day basis, and the pandemic has accelerated adoption among older generations who were not as tech-savvy.

55% of those who say they don’t understand new tech and computers said:

  • They felt more confident using communication tools since the pandemic.
  • They would continue to communicate online to the same extent once social distancing restrictions are lifted

As a result of societal shifts during the pandemic, Forbes have created a list of new startup opportunities based on changes to consumer behaviour. This includes meal preparation services, fitness, virtual activities and socialising.

Attitudes toward tech

While technology is generally seen as a necessity and a way to make life easier, the increasing levels of data provided to companies are causing concern.

51% of US and UK love tech and cannot imagine their life without it, compared to 45% of Singapore. 52% of Singapore respondents say they don't love tech, but realise the necessity – this is lower in the UK and US at 46% – while 3% of people in Singapore, US and UK try to avoid tech completely.

However, there are overall concerns on data privacy and how personal data is used by companies. In the UK, while 52% strongly agree or agree that they are comfortable with providing their personal information to apps, 59% strongly agree or agree that they are concerned with the way this information is used, and 67% express a concern in the amount of data consumers have to give.

Technology has its advantages and disadvantages, it can help to speed up processes but providing personal data to applications could jeopardise our safety.” Singaporean respondent, aged 22

Future of technology

“What developments in technology are you most excited to see develop or expand in the future?”

Although smart home technology comes out on top, there is a stronger focus on sustainability in the UK at 32%, compared to 23% in Singapore and 22% in the US. 

Smart tech comes out on top

Excitement in smart home technology developments seems to be a common theme across the UK (43%), US (35%) and Singapore (38%), however, there are clear differences in other areas of tech globally :

Second highest:

  • Sustainable tech/Net Zero in the UK (32%)
  • Artificial Intelligence in Singapore (38%)
  • Virtual reality in the US (29%)

Third highest:

  • Driverless vehicles in the UK (26%)
  • 5G/6G networks in Singapore (33%)
  • 5G/6G networks and 3D printing in the US (28%)

In Singapore, consumers are excited about artificial intelligence and in the US, they are excited about virtual reality.

The table below shows the comparative figures for the UK and the US. The UK’s excitement for tech advancement in artificial intelligence is 14% less than that of Singapore.

Virtual reality19%23%29%
Artificial intelligence (AI)38%24%23%

“Which industries do you think technology will have the greatest impact on?”

Delving into the UK regions, we wanted to understand what part of the UK, has a focus on a particular industry over another and how this differs.

The Health industry comes out on top in the UK overall, as the industry that tech will have the greatest impact on. Looking specifically at the regions, this was highest in Scotland, where 61% of respondents from Scotland think this to be true. Moreover, the amount of VC investment into UK heathTech in 2020 was £1.15bn, more than 3x the amount of VC invested in Healthtech 2018.

In London, there is a focus on Education and Energy, below are examples of case studies from respondents, detailing the impact they think tech will have: 

"It provides a different delivery methods for this industry. E.g. virtual learning." Female, 30, UK

"People can study online while being based anywhere in the world" Female, 34, UK

"People will learn to adapt to new ways of improving the skills" Male, 26, UK

In the North East, North West of England and Yorkshire, there is a focus on Energy, Research, and Media.

Tying into the popular opinion that sustainability is an area where tech will bring great expansion by smarter ways of sourcing cleaner energy.

‘Energy needs new technologies to develop sustainable energy sources that are nit reliant on fossil fuels, and provide energy at cheap costs; education is changing following online learning more people will choose this learning method going forward especially if we can learn in our own time & pace with online digital support the open university is not something I would ever consider until 2020; tech will need to develop to develop the tech this sector needs to constantly be innovating and advancing’ Female, 44, UK

In the South West, we see a large focus on Retail, with respondents thinking that technology will obliterate the high street, with a huge impact on retail, thus fewer staff needed and efficiencies can increase.

“Retail moving mostly online and shops will close”, UK, Non-Binary, 35

"Well in retail it will reduce errors and staffing," UK, Male, 21


Jobs and skills

In 2020 the number of unique tech jobs advertised per month in the UK outweighed that of key countries in Europe by 259% on average

There are peaks in advertised tech jobs in June, July and October, however towards the end of the year this tailed off on a global basis. This drop is expected as hiring is often put on hold while HR plans are put in place for the beginning of the following year.

We looked at the number of advertised unique tech jobs per country in 2020 to understand the growth of tech jobs in the UK compared to other countries. The table below shows  that the number of UK tech jobs outweighed that of France 1.9 times and 1.6 times that of Spain. 

Tech jobs 2020Ratio

The analysis of job adverts from 2015 to 2018 show that demand for digital tech roles has been increasing. Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, advertised tech roles in the UK grew 36% as of the June 2020 (Jobs and Skills report, 2020).

To understand employer demand within the UK, we used Adzuna data to analyse the number of advertised tech jobs in 2019. The top 10 most in-demand roles are shown below.

RoleNo. advertised roles 2017No. advertised roles 2018No. advertised roles 2019% 2017 - 2019 change
Software Developer1397551429711513068.3%
Java Developer600615878550113-16.6%
NET Developer36786394724658226.6%
IT Project Manager461723473040624-12.0%
Front End Developer376163536833863-10.0%
Devops Engineer20274259043009448.4%
IT Consultant332892623425859-22.3%
C# Developer276672485924000-13.3%


The UK labour market in 2020

Andrew Hunter, Co-Founder


2020 has been an extremely challenging year for jobseekers and employers alike. Britain’s job market has suffered enormously, and the tech sector has not been immune to the damage done by the pandemic.

The spring of 2020 saw more than half of U.K tech companies either pulling back on hiring or freezing recruitment altogether. The early summer saw waves of redundancies and furloughing across the sector, but from July, Adzuna’s data showed a sustained comeback in tech hiring in almost every region across Britain. By the end of the year, there were over 85,000 tech jobs being advertised, just a fraction shy of pre-pandemic levels. 

Click to read more

We have an understanding of employers’ needs based on the number of advertised roles, but does the employer demand meet candidate supply for tech jobs and does it correlate with what potential employees are looking for? To get a gauge of this, we used data from Talent Up and SEMrush to analyse professionals working in a specific role and the most popular searches for tech roles in the UK and globally. This provides an insight into the appetite for specific roles among the candidate pool, but also more generally what people are looking for and interested in.

.Net Developers in short supply

The table shows the total number of professionals seeking a specific role. This can be active candidates (looking for a job) or passive candidates. While 7.77% of all jobs advertised were for a .Net developer position, only 0.86% of IT professionals are candidates for this role.

PositionCandidates (Abs)Candidates (%)Job Openings (Abs)Job Openings (%)Ratio
.Net Developer42890.86300757.770.14
Devops Engineer76671.53215445.570.36
IT Project Manager17460.3544341.150.39
Full Stack Developer68121.36135583.50.5

We found the number one most-searched-for tech role was an Engineer at 419,000 searches in the UK and 2,724,500 searches globally from September 2016 to August 2020. For the months August and September 2020, the most popular roles based on searches were for Engineer jobs and Cybersecurity jobs. 

In the UK, the employer demand for an Engineer was second place in the most advertised tech roles in 2019, with just under 108,000 roles. The number of searches for ‘Engineer jobs’ in 2019 was 99,600.

Software Developer jobs’ ranked seventh for the number of searches from September 2016 to August 2020. From a supply point of view, the top sought after candidate from employers is a Software Developer, with just over 150,000 advertised roles in 2019, compared to 15,000 searches for ‘Software Developer jobs’ in the UK in 2019. This shows the demand for a Software Developer outweighs the number of consumer searches 10 times. 

Currently, the demand for tech roles and digital skills outweighs the supply. There are initiatives trying to tackle this such as Makers who focus on coding bootcamps and Generation UK, the youth unemployment non-profit organisation. They are supporting the next generation of leaders, providing training and skills to become software engineers and diversifying the talent pool

Searches for Engineer jobs have generally stayed constant, as has the employer demand for Engineers increasing by 15% from 2017 to 2019.  Cybersecurity advertised roles have increased, and job advertisement data from Adzuna shows that the demand for cyber security skills have increased from 2017 to 2019 by 80%.

Case study

The human side of cyber

Melanie Oldham

Bob's Business (HQ in Yorkshire)

At a time when our working lives are increasingly lived online, cyber security is more important than ever. Growing numbers of organisations are at risk from cyber threats that could disrupt, damage or even destroy the data and physical assets that make up their business.

The truth, though, is that there’s no technological fix for cyber security. Bad guys and good guys are in a never-ending race to out-do each other. The only long-term, sustainable answer is to provide cyber security awareness training that develops and embeds a cyber security culture in an organisation.

Click to read more

The number of searches for ‘cyber security’ jobs in the UK decreased from 9,900 searches in February 2020 to 8,100 in March 2020 - also the month in which the UK went into a lockdown due to the Covid-19 current pandemic we face. This further decreased to 6,600 searches in April, however, we saw this number pick up in June with 12,100 searches. 

Job search fluctuations are evident during the pandemic; as in-person networking is forced to stop and society adapts to new ways of working and connecting with people remotely, we see that looking for new roles involve more proactiveness, such as sourcing people via social media, blogs, and contacting potential employers directly according to Forbes.

The number of searches for all tech jobs globally decreased from 60,500 searches in January 2020 to 49,500 in March 2020. This picked up again in June, when the number of searches rose back up to 60,500. The US, India, UK and South Africa made up the majority of these searches.

Global trends

Sourcing the right talent is an important factor when scaling a business. Access to those with digital skills is becoming a pivotal factor in the success of a growing business. Seetech Outsource highlights that embracing digital skills can enable a business to increase productivity and building better customer relationships.

At Tech Nation’s ‘Unlocking Global Talent’ virtual event in 2020, attendees – including entrepreneurs, investors, and government bodies – were asked about challenges and opportunities entrepreneurs face when expanding their business ashore. 

Entrepreneurs and founders from outside the UK said that the top factors for considering a business presence in the UK are:

  1.  Access to talent - 32%
  2. Access to funding - 29%

In comparison, top reasons for expanding to the US, Singapore and Australia were:

  1. Access to consumers
  2. Springboard for further expansion

Reasons for expanding internationally by country (2020)


Diversity in tech

There is a growing demand for tech roles in the UK, with an increase of 40% within the past two years (see Tech Nation's Jobs and Skills report). However, there is still a large gender and ethnicity gap within tech companies and a lack of investment given to diverse founders. 

Test your assumptions of people working in the UK digital tech economy:

For every 100 people working in a digital tech job in 2019, how many were women?

Guess using the slider below

Reveal the answer

Whilst 49.8% of workers in the labour market as a whole are women, in tech, it’s half that, at 25.5%

For every 100 people working in a digital tech job in 2019, how many were under 35?

Guess using the slider below

Reveal the answer

In tech, there is an overrepresentation of people under 35 years of age, at 42% compared to 39.5% for the labour market as a whole.

For every 100 people working in a digital tech job in 2019, how many were from an ethnic minority?

Guess using the slider below

Reveal the answer

Tech has a marginally higher proportion of BAME people than the labour market as a whole, 11.8% for all occupations, and 15.2% for tech. This is also the case across UK regions and nations - aside from Northern Ireland, where there are a lower proportion of BAME people working in tech than across the labour market as a whole.

According to a report by Extend Ventures, within the past decade (2009 - 2019) female entrepreneurs faced barriers accessing VC investment, as shown below. Only 3% of VC funding (seed, early- and late-stage) went to all female teams. On the other hand, all male teams received 68% of VC funding. 


Supporting diversity in tech

Jeevan Sunner

Playfair Capital

Only 3% of VC funding went to all-female teams; the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this. At Playfair, we want to help redress that imbalance. In collaboration with Tech Nation, Google for Startups and 90 leading European VCs, we will give 250+ women founders the opportunity to meet investors to ask for advice, pitch for investment or find a mentor. In doing so, we hope more women from remote areas of Europe are getting equal opportunity and access to investors. Find out more here.

Entrepreneurs from Black, South Asian, East Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds received in total 1.7% of VC investment. Given that ethnic minorities make up 14% of the UK population, this shows the disproportionate underinvestment in these communities. On the other hand, 76% of VC investment went to all white founding teams.

Only 0.24% of the 1.7% invested in ethnic minority founders went to black entrepreneurs. Black female entrepreneurs are at an even greater disadvantage, receiving the lowest amount of funding this decade, at 0.02%. This equates to just one black female founder – believed to be Sharmedean Reid of BeautyStack. 

Help address a lack of data on people in tech

Last year, in Atomico's State of European Tech report, a lack of data and gaps in available information on people in the tech sector was highlighted. These gaps may be having a detrimental impact on our ability to understand, amongst other things, the representativeness of the tech ecosystem.

In September 2020, Dealroom started an initiative to collect ethnicity data through self-identification. Close to 300 people have taken part and for those who reported their ethnicity, 11% identified as Asian, 4% as Black/African/Caribbean, 4% as Mixed, 3% as Middle Eastern/North African and 2% as Hispanic/Latinx. With enough representative data we can start to build a more complete picture of ethnicity and gender in the tech ecosystem, for better decision making, and fairer outcomes. Claim your Dealroom profile and update your details, to help build the most comprehensive living dataset on people in tech.

Overall, 43% of VC funding went to teams where at least one founding member was from an elite university, defined as the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, Harvard University or Stanford University including their business schools. This also shows a skew towards those with educational and economic privileges.

Investment by growth stage also shows that white founders get the lion share of investment, and this proportion grows as the stage increases. 

It is estimated that only 3% of VC’s in the UK are black, with only a few at partner level or in the position to make investment decisions. Higher representation of black people within VC firms could help alleviate investment gaps. There are initiatives created to ensure fundings goes to diverse founders and to make VC more representative of society, such as Diversity VC, Included VC and the Newton Venture Program



Interact with the map below for an insight into each region