UK 'poised to rival silicon valley'

The UK's tech industry has experienced a tenfold expansion over the past decade and is "set to challenge Silicon Valley" in the next ten years, according to a new analysis.

Publication of the report, compiled by and the Digital Economy Council, coincided with Scaleup Week, a government-backed project aimed at bringing together business leaders from across the UK to discuss future challenges and opportunities.The tech industry analysis found that, over the course of ten years, the number of unicorns – private companies valued at $1 billion or more – had increased from eight in 2010 to 81 last year.Meanwhile the number of 'futurecorns' – companies capable of growing into a unicorn – rose from 10 to 126 by 2020, accompanied by an increase in venture capital investment in the UK from £1.2 billion in 2010 to £11.3 billion last year."These numbers demonstrate the extent to which the UK is catching up with the US and China in tech, with London now fourth behind the Bay Area, Beijing and New York, when it comes to the number of startups and unicorns created. No other European country has been able to grow at such a speed," said the report.Over the decade, the sectors creating the most unicorns in the UK have been fintech (32), enterprise software (14) and health tech (13). In 2020 alone, British fintech companies raised £3.2 billion in venture capital.Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden said: “UK tech has seen record levels of growth over the last decade, turning a nation of startups into one of scaleups."Investors are interested in backing UK startups because of a combination of cutting edge research, skilled engineering and tech talent and operators who understand how to build a strong, sustainable business."This government will do all it can to support the entrepreneurs who have created this vibrant new part of our economy and which now employs almost three million people right across the country in both our world-renowned tech centres like London and Cambridge, to our cities, suburbs and rural areas.”Additionally, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng marked Scaleup Week with a "rallying cry" to British businesses to scale up through the government’s Help to Grow: Management Scheme.He also announced the membership of the scheme's Expert Advisory Council, including Confederation of British Industry (CBI) president Lord Bilimoria, Natwest CEO Alison Rose and Charlotte Keenan, managing director of Goldman Sachs.A government spokesman said the scheme would be launched at the end of June and consisted of a new, 12-week executive training programme delivered by the UK’s leading business schools. It would combine a practical curriculum with 1:1 mentoring from a business expert; peer-learning sessions to give businesses the opportunity to learn from one another; and an alumni network.Mr Kwarteng said: "After such a challenging year for British businesses, Scaleup Week is the time for shining a light on how fast-growing firms are adopting new tech and ways of working to shake up how they do things."Helping small businesses to learn from the best will be central to building back better from the pandemic. Our new A-Team of experts will ensure 30,000 small and medium-sized firms across the UK get the very best advice on how to innovate, reach new customers and boost profits so they can expand operations and create more job opportunities."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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