22 Mar 2017

Tech Nation Report 2017: An encouraging but incomplete picture?

UK “at the forefront of global digital innovation” 

Tech City has just launched its 2017 Tech Nation Report.

The annual report provides an in-depth picture of the UK’s digital tech ecosystem through survey responses, interview case studies, and detailed economic data.

According to the report, there are now 1.64 million digital tech jobs in the UK. That’s compared to the 1.56 million jobs highlighted in the 2016 report.

The report presents tech as a booming sector with impressive opportunities, which we are obviously delighted about. However, we do have our questions. The report is based on the survey responses of around 2700 individuals in the tech sector. This is valuable data, but even more of it would be better! 2700 is less than 1% of the 1.64 million people currently employed in tech.

Perhaps this is a communications challenge for Tech City: how do we inspire the remaining 99% of the tech community to get involved in this important picture of their ecosystem?

Likewise, concerns about the impact of Brexit are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, but the report is vague in its discussion of the topic.

On the whole, we’re heartened by the report and look forward to seeing how the UK will develop over the next twelve months. For now, here are a few key findings from the 2017 report, and what this means for tech in the UK.


Report paints rosy picture of tech in the UK 

The Tech Nation Report is known for showcasing impressive figures around the UK’s tech sector, and this year is – of course – no different. There’s even an entire sector of the report devoted to ‘national excellence’.

There’s no denying the glowing nature of these figures. According to the report, the UK’s digital tech sector grew 50% faster than the economy as a whole in 2015 (4.8% versus 3.2%). How great is that?!

Here are a few more exciting stats we’ve pulled from this year’s report:
– The UK now has 85,000 more digital tech jobs compared to 2 years ago and digital tech turnover has grown by nearly 25% in 5 years.
– UK tech businesses are growing 2X faster than non-digital businesses
– Digital tech companies are forming twice as fast as non-digital with a birth rate of just over 15% vs 11.6%

All in all, we’re glad we work in tech! Long may the trend continue.

Working in the UK tech ecosystem 

As well as demonstrating the state of the tech sector as a whole, the Tech Nation Report 2017 also focuses on what it’s like to work in tech. Like any ecosystem, the sector relies on the interactions between its living community to thrive. Luckily, the report reveals that working in tech is – on the whole – a positive experience.

As we mentioned above, the Tech Nation Report states that tech businesses are growing twice as fast as non-digital companies. This has the added benefit of creating jobs in the tech sector twice as fast as non-digital jobs.

The report also reveals that tech employees are twice as productive as their non-digital counterparts. This bodes well for job satisfaction, as we all know that its happy employees that make productive workers. Combined with the fact that the average digital salary is nearly 45% higher than the average non-digital salary, there’s all the more reason to be thankful.

However, there is still more work to be done when it comes to attracting – and keeping – talent in the tech sector. The Tech Nation Report is keen to point out that the UK has 8 out of 20 top universities in Europe – more than any other European country. And yet, the report also cites a ‘lack of talent’ as the number one challenge faced by tech businesses in the UK.

Where are all these top graduates going, and how can we inspire them to work in the UK’s tech sector? We’d like to know more.


What about Brexit? 

What indeed.

The Tech Nation Report opens with unabashed confidence: “Our analysis shows that the UK is the Digital Capital of Europe”.

This continues throughout the report, with frequent iterations on how the UK’s tech sector compares to Europe’s:

– In 2016 UK digital tech investment reached £6.8billion, 50% higher than any other European country
– London hosts three times more meet ups than any other European city at 22k
– In 2016 London received £2.2billion in VC and PE investment, more than any other European city

As you might expect, Theresa May’s foreword to the report references Brexit, and how she anticipates the tech sector will negotiate it:

“As Prime Minister I am determined that we will build on this success as we seize the opportunities that arise from leaving the EU and seek to build a bold new future for our country. That is why support for the digital tech sector is an important element of the government’s modern industrial strategy, helping to deliver a high-skilled, high paid Britain where opportunity is spread across every community, not just the traditional areas of London and the South East.”

All sounds very positive. But of course, she would say that.

The foreword by Tech City’s Chair and CEO is a little more realistic:

“Brexit will bring both challenges and opportunities; the two key drivers of growth are talent and investment. Our survey respondents were unequivocal: maintaining strong access to both is crucial as we propel ahead. We believe it can be done.”

While we do appreciate the attempt at reassurance, the report does not address the fact that a lot of people have very real concerns about the UK’s future post-Brexit. With news threatening thousands of job losses post-Brexit, this overly positive report seems to gloss over the issue.

Do we think UK tech will continue to thrive once we’ve left the European Union? Yes, because tech is plucky and agile, and willing to adapt fast. However, we do need to be prepared for the possibility of hard times ahead.

Nobody really knows what long-term impact Brexit will have on tech – or any other sector. However, we’ll be surprised if Tech City is able to skirt around the issue so easily in coming years. At the moment, it’s simply too soon to tell.


A tech year in review 

Apart from the Brexit-shaped elephant in the room, the Tech Nation Report provides a positive and reassuring look at a fast developing sector. It proves that the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears are most definitely worth it.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for more positive news and case studies coming out in the wake of the 2017 Tech Nation report.

In the mean time, we’d love to hear your feedback on Twitter.

Tech Nation Report 2017