24 July 2018 by Spencer Symmons
Five years of continuous growth in our thriving tech sector has placed the UK firmly on the map for digital innovation. Last year, British firms attracted more capital than any other European country: in turn, the number of new technology companies set up in the UK soared by almost 60 per cent in 2017 alone. While London lays claim to the largest tech cluster in the UK, a steady stream of talent and investment has sparked the emergence of digital suburbs across the country.
In South Wales, the hills are alive with the sound of software developers while the Scottish capital boasts the largest centre for robotics in the UK. Meanwhile, vast transformation has seen Manchester evolve from “Cottonopolis” to a leader in cutting-edge technology and Bristol and Bath have welcomed the semiconductor community with open arms in a bid to become the South West Silicon Valley.
If the latest figures from TechNation are true, the rise of these digital clusters has caused the UK tech sector to grow 2.6 times faster than the overall economy. To call our tech sector a great British success story would almost be an understatement, but how have these hubs helped to bolster the industry on a whole?
Innovation is born from opportunity; it occurs when passionate and talented individuals are given the time, space and funding to defy expectations and challenge the status quo. Take Tech City, for example: in 2011, then Prime Minister David Cameron launched an initiative in Shoreditch, East London with the aim of spurring intense technological activity within the community.
Having previously held a reputation as relatively run down, the Old Street Roundabout soon became a hotspot for tech start-ups in the tech sphere. Within no time, these ambitious companies were taking advantage of proximity with one another to collaborate on groundbreaking technologies. Eric Van der Kleij is the chief executive of the UK government's Tech City Investment Organisation, tasked with promoting the interests and needs of the area:
"Because you have so many start-ups and so many investors all concentrating in one area, you find those wonderful accidental collisions that create both innovation as well as opportunity,” he says.
On the back of its success, Tech City has since expanded to become Tech Nation. Today, it supports thousands of entrepreneurs across the country by running programmes, events, skills and data resources to reach all corners and clusters of the UK.
While London may boast the largest tech hub in the country, the truth is that we have a number of digital communities throughout the UK to thank for recent technological advancements. It’s the combination of each specialist city or region and the start-ups that call them home that power our world-renowned tech sector today.
In 2016, 68 per cent of UK technology investments were made in cities and regions outside of London, and six technology clusters raised nearly £700 million in funding alone. Since their inception, these regional tech clusters have organically grown to predominantly specialise in a particular niche - be it artificial intelligence, IoT, data science or robotics. As a result, the UK has naturally evolved to become a powerhouse for technological advancements with each hub acting as a different department of one fast-growing business. Their shared goal? Innovation.
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