UK cities leading Europe's tech charge

The digital tech sector in the UK has grew six times faster than other industries last year, according to the 2020 annual report from Tech Nation, the government-backed network for tech entrepreneurs.

Manchester skyline at night
The Tech Nation report said the amount of high-scaling tech businesses was the highest on record in 2019 with the sector as a whole employing 2.9 million people across the UK, a 40% increase since 2017.Last year, the nation had a record 95 tech businesses worth between $250-800 million, a 27% on 2018 and well ahead of the numbers in France (61), Germany (46) and Israel (46).

The UK has 77 tech unicorns

According to the report, a quarter of the 20 cities in Europe with the highest investment in tech in 2019 were in the UK - Manchester, London, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge - with Manchester becoming the continent's fastest growing with a 277% increase between 2018-19.“In a rapidly changing world, the UK is a shining light for tech entrepreneurs, investors and employees,” said Gerard Grech, chief executive at Tech Nation.“Some of the biggest UK successes - the 77 so-called tech unicorns - are $1 billion valued companies that now inspire others, and there are an additional 95 tech businesses across the UK primed to be scaling over the coming years.“The success of these businesses will be grounded in the UK tech ecosystem’s ability to build deeper and broader knowledge networks between various constituents such as experienced investors and entrepreneurs and to truly fuel growth across the country.“We need to stay responsive, with smart regulation, ever increasing access to growth capital and new markets. Every effort we put in now will repay many times over, as the past few years have already shown.”

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UK taking the lead in technology such as AI and blockchain

In a statement, techUK, the sector's lobby group, said the report showed that the UK was cementing its place as one of the best places to invest in tech, with a 44% increase in venture capital investment between 2018 and last year."Additionally, the report highlights that tech clusters across the country are going from strength to strength and that the UK is taking a lead in key emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain," said techUK."The UK is now well on its way to become a truly tech nation, with large tech clusters now established across the country."

UK is a leader in key emerging technology

Importantly, added techUK, the UK also remained a leader in key emerging tech, with the third highest levels of investment in emerging tech and the only country of the top five for Artificial Intelligence (AI) investment to see consistent year-on-year growth over the past five years."The UK is also among the top five destinations for investment in cybersecurity, blockchain and virtual reality, showing that we continue to take a lead in developing the technologies that will power the Fourth Industrial Revolution."The organisation said that while last week's Budget contained a number of positive measures to help continued growth in the sector, there was now a global race between countries to become a world leading tech economy and that "more can be done to secure the medium- and long-term competitiveness of the UK tech sector"."However," techUK added, "for now the tech sector like all other sectors must help the Government, NHS, workers and communities to manage the impact of COVID-19."This is already happening with tech firms across the UK have deploying their expertise to combat the spread of COVID-19—whether using AI to track the spread of the virus, enabling remote working through video conferencing, or assisting the NHS by informing the public and combating misinformation. techUK is pleased to see our members taking a lead here and we will continue to support the efforts to support these efforts."Visit Tech Nation online to read the 2020 Tech Nation report.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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