Tech Nation’s 2021 Report highlights UK tech growth and resilience in 2020 despite the unprecedented challenges caused by both the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit uncertainty.
UK tech Venture Capital investment is third in the world, hitting a record high of $15bn in 2020 in the face of challenging conditions and the country attracted more overseas investment than before, with 63% of all investment coming from outside, up from 50% in 2016.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is quoted as saying: “The UK is maintaining its lead as one of the world’s premier centres for tech of all kinds.
“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.”
Insights from the Tech Nation Report 2021 reveal a number of successes the UK can celebrate, including world-leading growth in deep tech investment at 17%, while North America and Asia both experienced falling rates between 2019 and 2020.
Tech Innovation in the UK
Investment into innovation was high during 2020 with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) forming key foundations for many new platforms.
AI and ML technology investment is also being supported by investment in robotics and drones; augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR) and the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as blockchain. The United Kingdom was second only to Norway, with almost 54% of all venture capital investment.
For the second year in a row London secured fourth spot for VC investment into tech by city, keeping ahead of Shanghai (5th) and Hangzhou (40th) in China, which previously outperformed London between 2015 and 2018.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “With record levels of investment secured and UK listings gaining momentum, this report shows Britain’s tech sector continues to go from strength to strength, solidifying our position as one of the world’s top tech hubs.
“We want to bring about a golden age of UK tech through a raft of supportive measures and funding to help businesses thrive. This will help fuel a booming tech sector – creating jobs and improving services so that we can build back better from the pandemic.”
Covid-19 pandemic challenged investment ideas
The Covid-19 pandemic has also challenged the idea that startups in major cities like London have an advantage by being optimally positioned for in-person meetings and pitches to investors.
With most fundraising deals happening remotely during 2020, the North West of England experienced the highest increases in emerging health and wellness investment, up more than 200% from £25m to £82m on 2019s figures.
Kingston-Upon-Hull, in Yorkshire, also stands out, ranking 6th in the UK tech growth field, with $108m (£79.4m). This year’s success, with £80m raised by smart city business Connexin alone, is an example of how high-growth business in emerging technologies can change the playing field for regional economies.
In Leeds, home to the Beacon HQ, the tech sector attracted $43.5m in venture capital investment in 2020. Investment levels jumped 29 per cent from $33.6m to $43.5m, according to a report created for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Digital Economy Council.
Earlier this month, a £6m support package to help and inspire people from all backgrounds was launched by the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, along with the Leeds City Enterprise Partnership.
She said: “I am delighted to launch Enterprise West Yorkshire to help people from all communities and backgrounds to build successful businesses and create new skilled jobs.
“We have a wealth of talent in West Yorkshire, and I had the pleasure of meeting with many brilliant young people earlier this year who all had fantastic business ideas and a drive to become successful entrepreneurs.
“As we recover from the pandemic, I hope this new programme will inspire more people to consider starting a business and even help bring life back to our high streets that have suffered from high profile closures.”
Sir Roger Marsh, DL Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NPII added: “I am delighted that through the LEP, we are going to support over 1,500 new business start-ups and help many more in the region to explore their career options.
“Enterprise West Yorkshire is a fantastic opportunity for those impacted by the pandemic to embrace a new entrepreneurial direction. I’d encourage everyone to get in touch to access free support to start a new business venture.”
Tech Nation Award winner
Beacon won the Tech Nation Rising Stars 3.0 Cyber Award earlier this year and just last month scooped the Best Martech Innovation Award at the Prolific North Tech Awards for its click fraud protection platform, designed to provide marketers with better quality and more accurate data from their online advertising campaigns.
Nigel Bridges, CEO of Beacon, said: “We are very proud of the journey that we have been on as a business, and our determination to innovate and disrupt remains a central tenet of how we operate.
“Our passion lies in helping our clients to grow by embracing the very latest in campaign analytics technology to achieve their marketing goals and taking the fight back to the bots through click fraud protection.”
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