Five senior figures from firms championing the growth of UK regional tech hubs want the next Prime Minister to address the “postcode lottery” which sees some startups missing out on vital funding and support because they are not based in London.
The Conservative leadership campaign is in its final stages, with Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak now the only remaining candidates to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
One of them will be appointed prime minister within days, and ahead of the announcement, five members of the UK’s tech cluster group shared their thoughts on areas they say Johnson’s successor will need to tackle geographical disparities in funding and support. by technology firms outside of London.
UK Tech Cluster Group member David Dunn, who is its CEO Sunderland Software CitySaid: “For us to succeed, there is an understanding that the whole of the UK must support and offer help, and be available where needed, on the ground rather than centrally directed.
“It is imperative that the new Prime Minister and Cabinet are responsive to regional needs. Only then can leveling become a reality.”
The UK Tech Cluster Group consists of 14 regional tech trade special interest groups who champion and support tech firms in their respective jurisdictions to ensure they receive the regional and national government support they need to survive and thrive.
Another member is Katie Gallagher, who is chairman of the UK Tech Cluster Group and managing director of Manchester Digital.
He said there was an urgent need to address this, with research highlighting a growing disparity in how funding is allocated between the UK’s major technology centres.
“A recent report from Beauhurst shows how regional disparities in tech funding have actually worsened, with 52% of announced deals going to businesses in London – and 68% of all pounds invested,” Gallagher said.
“The region’s technological ecosystems vary in terms of their maturity and resources, so government support needs to be directly informed by local ecosystem leaders, who have a unique understanding of how their ecosystems work.
“Not all clusters have a vibrant startup scene, so they may need investment to stimulate those businesses and work with individual entrepreneurs to start growing. Some may later require scaleup support and the ability to connect businesses with larger investors that have traditionally only been available in London and the South East.”
While Gallagher acknowledged the North West of England has a “really vibrant tech scene”, he said it needed to receive the same amount of investment as the South East to enable “real leveling off” and help the North close. south part
“Creating high-quality technology and digital jobs in low-income areas can make a huge difference in leveling off,” he said. “Education is also important for developing the region’s technology talent. There is a need to increase and invest in technical apprenticeships as well as consolidate technical education opportunities. We need to see more consistency and investment to get this right.
“This confirms that regions have a long way to go to level up, but investing in technology clusters that are already doing a lot is a good place to start.”
This view is shared by Tim Robinson, chief operating officer of Tech East, which represents the interests of technology companies – including startups and scaleups – based in East Anglia.
“While it’s a truism that tech businesses can start and scale anywhere in the world, the fact remains that it’s a postcode lottery in the UK,” Robinson said.
“Between individual regions – and the East of England is a good example – there is stark variation in the support available to SMEs. The range of local government structures creates a conundrum, particularly for businesses in rural or coastal locations many miles from the cities of Cambridge and Norwich, or the region’s major cities e.g. Ipswich and Colchester.
“A complete technology ecosystem requires many elements: research-intensive universities strong in computing science; late-stage tech companies and anchor corporates that act as talent attractors and consumers for open innovation; a range of investors present; vibrant local meetups and networks.”
Robinson added: “It’s rare to find a UK region outside of London and its environs, the core city, Oxford and Cambridge that has all these elements in place and at scale. Flattening this landscape is the biggest opportunity for the next Prime Minister.”
Meanwhile, the non-profit’s managing director is Ben Shork Techsparkwhich covers the South West And describing itself as a community “dedicated to strengthening the tech ecosystem from Swindon to Swansea”, also called on the next prime minister to follow the lead of other countries in the amount of support they give their tech companies.
“I’d like our new cabinet to see the value of our industry and understand that we’re competing globally for talent, money and founders,” Shorock said. “Nations around the world are changing policies, investing cash and support to enrich their ecosystems.
“For example, France recently invested €3.5bn in its tech ecosystem to enable the growth of scaleups. The UK should not rest on its laurels, but understand their barriers and ensure we can recruit the best talent, grow global businesses and be a powerhouse for our economy. It should actively work with the tech community across the country to ensure that.”
Phil Jones, Brighton-based managing director Wired SussexIt is also imperative that whoever leads the next government takes action on the three big issues that are making it difficult for new tech companies to get off the ground – Brexit, Covid and rising inflation.
“Often the challenge [for early-stage businesses] These businesses are even more intense when they are outside of large, recognized city clusters of technology,” Jones said. “This also includes the South East, new technology clusters in places like Eastbourne need the kind of support that only those who understand and are embedded in the regional ecosystem can provide.
“Support that helps increase the resilience of these emerging technology clusters and resources of established clusters to do so should be prioritized.”