Tech sector fretting about future talent recruitment

A warning of problems ahead for the UK's tech sector in recruiting the talent it needs from overseas has been issued by a senior figure in the industry.

Photo of a bus in Shoreditch, London\'s tech hub, illustrating an article about the Brexit implications to the UK tech industry
Imam Hoque, chief operating officer for Quantexa, a leading data analytics firm, fears that the nation's pre-eminent position in European tech is being threatened by Brexit and could leave some companies with no alternative but to relocate abroad."The Brexit process has been fraught with ambiguity and confusion, a fact that hasn’t escaped those working in science and technology," he writes in an article published on the London Loves Business website."The sector has been one of the shining lights of the British economy and can continue to be so in the future. However, to do so it needs clarity from the government."Providing assurances over funding, immigration and our future economic partnership with Europe will help to allay the fears of many."

Immigration & investment: the EU has played a major part in the British tech sector's success

Mr Hoque says that the EU has played a "major part" in the success of Britain's technology sector, which last year attracted more than £6.3 billion in venture capital investment - more than the rest of Europe.He says the fact the UK plays host to some of the world’s largest tech companies, has a lively and pioneering start-up scene, and boasts "an incredibly cosmopolitan populace" has made the country a magnet for overseas talent."Furthermore, due to freedom of movement rules, which make it as easy to hire a worker from Riga as one from Rotherhithe, it was simple for a continental expat to find a job and move to the UK," he writes."Brexit is extremely likely to lead to a change in immigration law. At best, this will make it more difficult for companies to hire foreign workers. At worst, it will outright prevent them from doing so."

The EU has been essential for the funding of science and tech R&D in the UK: what will happen next?

Mr Hoque says the UK does not produce enough STEM workers of its own to satisfy demand. "With Brexit reducing the tech sector’s ability to hire, and the education system not creating enough domestic talent to compensate, firms will have to relocate and reduce the scope of their plans."He also points out that the EU has been an excellent vehicle for the funding of science and technology R&D with the UK being "a disproportionately large beneficiary". And, he adds, the EU has been a "brilliant vehicle for the collaborative research" through such initiatives as the European Research Area helping connect groups across national borders."It should be noted that the government has agreed to underwrite funding for competitively bid EU projects submitted before Brexit day. Furthermore, UK researchers and businesses will still be eligible to apply for EU funding as third country participants," says Mr Hoque."However, this only covers projects already in existence, and at the time of writing, it is unknown if there will be a replacement pool of grants."While it remains highly likely that the government will seek to develop one of its own. With the hundreds of potential Brexit impacts that the government must consider, it is unlikely that the funding of the sciences will be given top priority."The consequence of this will be to reduce the amount of funding available to the scientific community. This will have a direct impact on how programmes are undertaken, but it may also make it more difficult to attract foreign workers, who could be attracted by the financial incentives on offer elsewhere."
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