The UK’s digital tech sector continues
to accelerate faster than the rest of the economy, according to Tech
Nation 2018, the landmark state of the nation report on the booming tech
sector. Turnover of digital tech companies grew by 4.5% between 2016-17
compared to UK GDP which grew by 1.7% over the same period, according to
official figures compiled by Tech Nation.

This means that the tech sector grew at 2.6 times faster than the rest
of the economy. At the same time the number of jobs in digital tech rose
at five times the rate of the rest of the economy, demonstrating how the
digital tech sector is one of the best performing sectors in the UK

Tech Nation 2018 is published by Tech Nation, a new voice for the UK’s
fast-growing digital tech sector. Tech Nation builds on the work of Tech
City UK and Tech North and is working to make the UK the best place in
the world to imagine, start and grow a digital tech business. Its
purpose is to accelerate the growth of the digital tech sector across
the UK, help ambitious founders succeed, increase digital skills, share
learning and knowledge between sectors and communities and help present
the UK tech sector on the world stage.

proved to be an amazing year for the UK digital tech sector with some of
the biggest fundraisings and exits seen in years, as international
investors flocked to fund UK-based firms. British digital tech companies
raised £4.5bn in venture capital investment during the year, according
to Pitchbook figures, almost double the previous year.

Notable exits for the sector during 2017 included
which was sold to a private equity investor for almost £750m and
Leeds-based CallCredit acquired by TransUnion for £1 billion. There were
also several so called ‘mega funding’ rounds during the year, with game
development platform Improbable raising £370m from Japan’s Softbank,
food delivery service Deliveroo raising £284m and mobile network
Truphone raising £249m. Some of the UK’s fastest growing tech companies
include Improbable, Deliveroo, Farfetch, TransferWise, Funding Circle,
Revolut, The Hut, Skyscanner, Fanduel, Oxford Nanopore, Benevolent.AI
and Darktrace. DeepMind, acquired by Google in 2014, is a global leader
in artificial intelligence and still based in London.

In total the UK has seen £42bn venture-backed exits between 2013 and
2017. Companies that have gone from startup to household names, with
stock market listings worth billions of pounds in less than a decade,
include Just Eat, Zoopla and Purplebricks. The proposed purchase of
Zoopla by US investor Silver Lake for £2.2bn, announced last week,
underlines the success and future potential of the UK’s digital tech

The fourth report from Tech
Nation on the state of the country’s digital tech sector reveals new
data on the international competitiveness of the UK’s tech sector:

  • A third of London’s businesses have foreign customers, surpassing the
    30% of Silicon Valley companies that have overseas customers according
    to data from Startup Genome
  • London is the second most connected tech ecosystem globally, behind
    only Silicon Valley. 25% of the world’s entrepreneurs report a
    significant relationship with two or more others based in London
  • The UK is third in the world for total capital invested in digital
    tech companies, behind the US and China
  • London startups have the fourth most international workforce in the
    world. Only Singapore, Berlin and Chicago have a higher proportion of
    overseas workers.

A visual representation of the UK’s global connections can be seen here:

Comparison of the UK’s digital tech sector and that found in 20
international cities can be seen here:

The 2018 Tech Nation Report
also reveals the rise of ‘silicon suburbs’ and tech towns across the UK
where the digital tech sector is growing in urban areas not usually
associated with startups and tech businesses. These smaller population
centres are attracting more digital tech businesses, as the UK tech
sector gets bigger.

The 16 tech towns with above average digital density – higher levels of
tech employment – could prove to be a fertile breeding ground for the
next generation of tech startups. The towns are:

Slough and Heathrow
Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City
Guildford and Aldershot

High Wycombe and Aylesbury


Eight cities are also showing above average tech employment,
demonstrating how the UK’s tech boom is spreading beyond locations like
East London and Manchester where it already well established. The cities
are: Portsmouth, Bristol, Cambridge, Southampton, Oxford, York,
Salisbury and Bath.

Tech Nation 2018 reveals that the digital tech
sector’s workforce is older than commonly perceived and more ethnically
mixed than the average UK workplace. However the dearth of women in the
digital tech sector remains a factor, albeit one that is beginning to be
addressed by activities to tackle the recruitment and retention of women.

  • On average 72% of UK digital tech workers are over 35, challenging the
    stereotype that jobs in this sector are the preserve of millennials
  • 15% of those in digital tech jobs are of black, Asian and ethnic
    minority (BAME) background, significantly higher than the 10% across
    all UK jobs
  • Only 19% of the digital tech workforce is female, compared to 49%
    across all UK jobs.

In its 2018 report, Tech
Nation conducted its biggest ever survey of people in digital tech with
3,428 responses. The qualitative research reveals that entrepreneurs,
investors and founders in the tech sector face broadly the same
challenges, regardless of their location:

  • Access to talent is the most common challenge – affecting 83% of
  • Access to funding is a top 3 challenge in 49% of clusters
  • Bad transport links are a top 3 challenge in 29% of clusters

The responses showed that Brexit is less significant for companies
outside London, which historically have relied less heavily on overseas
talent to fill job vacancies.

  • The only places in which Brexit is cited as a top 3 challenge are
    Cambridge and London.
  • Tech communities across the UK are highly optimistic about the growth
    prospects for digital tech companies in their local area, both in
    terms of scale and number of businesses

UK entrepreneurs are overwhelmingly optimistic about the future of the
UK’s digital tech sector:

  • Over 70% of respondents think the number of digital tech businesses in
    their local area will rise over the next 12 months
  • And, over 90% think that the scale of digital tech businesses in their
    local area will either expand or stay the same

The report reveals the ‘hidden
underwiring’ that is powering the growth of the digital tech sector
across the UK. These informal meetups provide clues to the areas of
digital tech that are “hot” right now:

  • Artificial intelligence is becoming more important – of the top 400 UK
    tech meetups with the largest membership nearly 16% are related to AI
  • 1.6 million people across the country belong to 3,627 informal tech
    meetup groups
  • Analysis of Meetup data reveals that particular cities are quickly
    developing specialisms eg: blockchain is emerging specialism in
    Manchester where there were 151 meetups and nearly 62000 members

Further reading:
A fuller, data-rich
version of Tech Nation 2018 can be found online from Thursday 17th May
A short PDF printed version is here.

Methodology: The Tech Nation 2018 Survey was conducted between 15
January 2018 and 2nd February 2018 in partnership with Streetbees.
This year’s survey received the largest response yet from members of the
UK tech community. In a total of 3,428 submissions, people told us about
the opportunities and challenges their local ecosystems face, and the
digital tech leaders they admire. The majority of respondents (33%) were
founders and CEOs, followed by workers in tech companies (31%).

About Tech Nation: Tech Nation is the new organisation to help
accelerate the growth of the digital tech sector across the UK. Launched
in April it builds on the past work of Tech City UK and Tech North to
make the UK the best place in the world to imagine, start and grow a
digital tech business. Tech Nation is the UK network for ambitious
digital tech entrepreneurs, empowering tech entrepreneurs to grow faster
through knowledge and connections, to build a UK economy that is fit for
the next generation. Our vision is to make the UK the best place to
imagine, start and grow a digital business. We do this by running growth
programmes, developing digital entrepreneurship skills through our
online Digital Business Academy, through our visa scheme for exceptional
talent and by championing the UK’s digital sector through data, stories
and media campaigns.

The Tech Nation 2018 report, and the
first Tech Nation on Tour event are launching this morning in London
with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt
Hancock. Tech Nation on Tour is a series of invitation-only events for
founders, entrepreneurs, investors and tech ecosystem partners hosted
across the country between now and October. More info at

London – May 17 – eventbrite

Cambridge – May 23
Edinburgh – June 21
Newcastle – June 27
Reading – July 18
Belfast – July 26
Bristol – September 12
Birmingham – September 19
Leeds – September 27
Manchester – October 4
Cardiff – October 11

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