Writing in The Telegraph, the Digital Secretary celebrates the record-breaking levels of investment into the UK's tech sector
When I took on the role as Digital Secretary I knew I would get the opportunity to champion one of our country’s most creative and pioneering industries.
The UK technology sector is a huge success story and its products have an incredible power to improve people’s lives. Apps can save us time shopping around for holidays and planning travel, we can speak to friends and family in far-flung places at the touch of a button, and machine learning is revolutionising the fight against terrible diseases.
Companies in the sector are spreading wealth and prosperity by creating high-paying, high-skilled technical jobs alongside new opportunities in non-technical roles. In Belfast, for example, tech vacancies now account for almost one in four of total job vacancies. There are fantastic opportunities in cities with strong sectors such as Glasgow and Leeds.
And according to Tech Nation, the digital economy, with 2.1 million employees, is now a bigger employer than sectors including hospitality, with 1.3 million people, and financial services, with 1.2 million people employed.
Our talented workforce, alongside our business friendly environment, is a good reason we are so adept at producing so called ‘tech unicorns’, big firms using technology to power their ideas and worth more than $1 billion dollars. We are outperforming our European neighbours in creating such firms with more than 72 companies in this bracket born in the UK.
The strong foundations for innovation is why the flow of foreign capital to our shores continues to grow. New figures out today show the confidence global investors have in how our sector is growing and it has already attracted more foreign investment this year than it did for the whole of 2018. These are record-breaking numbers.
Between January and July 2019 the sector attracted $6.7 billion of investment, with more than half of these investments from America and Asia.
As we leave the EU and expand our trading relations around the globe, the growing interest from two of the world’s biggest and most important technology markets is one more reason we should be optimistic about our future.
Another is that the UK’s ambitious entrepreneurs are turning their ideas into global businesses.
British-born unicorn ASOS has revolutionised shopping online for millions of men and women around the world while CityMapper, which is helping speed up peoples’ commutes, is now in 39 cities globally.
Companies such as energy supplier OVO Energy and supply chain finance firm Greensill attracted more than £1 billion investment from Japan and fintech firm Checkout.com received $230m from American venture capital company Insight Partners.
All the signs indicate 2019 will be another great year for the UK’s tech sector which is on course to exceed $11 billion worth of investment before the end of the year.
We are determined to support these companies. Alongside investment in home-grown talent such as £84m for a world-leading new centre for Computing Education for Schools led by tech talent, the new Prime Minister recently announced new immigration plans to attract the world’s top scientists and bolster the UK’s standing as a hub for science and innovation.
We are also investing millions of pounds to give digital skills training to career changers and underrepresented groups through our Digital Skills Innovation Fund.
Today, Tech Nation, alongside the Government’s Digital Economy Council, is launching the Bright Tech Future Awards to celebrate the often unsung heroes building our fastest-growing companies and recognise the strength and depth of our talent.
In an industry contributing so much to our prosperity, where the bosses often have global profiles, the aim is to recognise the 99 per cent of employees and variety of roles on offer, from programmers and coders to human resource leads ands project managers. I encourage founders, entrepreneurs and investors to nominate their team members for one of these prestigious prizes.