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‘Golden era’ for UK tech: GoCardless attends Tech Nation 2017

Optimism was certainly in the air today at the Tech Nation event, where the UK’s brightest technology minds gathered to discuss the newly released report from Tech City.

Despite Brexit looming on the horizon, the UK tech scene is well-equipped to make the most of the country’s departure from the EU. As the digital capital of Europe, the UK secured £6.8 billion in tech investment in 2016, over 50% more than any other European country. That's likely to stand the country in good stead as its EU divorce gets underway.

Although the lion’s share of investment is still London-centric, the rest of the UK is starting to grab its share of the pie too. The shape of digital tech investment is changing and regional players are now accounting for two-thirds of UK tech investment; that’s £4.6 billion.

Cities such as Edinburgh, Cambridge and Bristol are now playing host to ‘tech clusters’, including significant companies such as Skyscanner and FreeAgent. Clearly, the future of UK tech is going places; and won’t only be confined to the capital.

The report highlighted the fact that the tech sector is absolutely critical to the UK’s economic growth, and must be nurtured at all costs. This requires collaboration from many stakeholders working together to drive forward existing successes, while preparing for new challenges in the wake of Brexit.

Fintech of course will be an important player; with innovations in this sector at the ‘forefront of driving UK tech growth’, according to Eileen Burbidge of London-based venture capital firm Passion Capital.

"In 20 years time every business will be a digital business," said Stephen Kelly of Sage.

Challenges for the future of UK tech include bridging the gap between the need for tech skills and the available talent pool. ‘Skilling up’ is therefore a key focus, to make sure the UK’s workforce has the necessary skills to cope with the rise in tech jobs.

This includes reforms in education to focus on tech, increased engagement with young people, and the introduction of government-supported digital apprenticeships schemes to encourage more young people to enter tech careers.

"Digital is now a utility, and no-one should be left behind," said Secretary of State Karen Bradley, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, in her keynote speech highlighting the government’s ongoing commitment to boosting digital skills.

Gender diversity in the tech sector, which remains overwhelmingly male, is another key challenge, despite numerous initiatives to shift this trend. According to the Tech Nation report, just one in nine digital tech companies have a majority of women in their workforce. And men outnumber women by three to one in 53 per cent of the organisations surveyed for the report.

To tackle this issue a flurry of new initiatives are underway to re-skill women into digital careers, while boosting the focus on girls’ tech training in schools across the UK. Businesses in the UK are also being compelled to ‘commit to diversity’ via the Government’s new Tech Talent Charter.

Access to finance is another important consideration for tech businesses to stay competitive and drive business forward. Over 40 per cent of businesses in the report identified this as one of their key challenges, not just in the early phases but at every stage of growth.

And finally, global talent attraction remains a vital issue for UK tech firms, with the government's continuing support of the Tech Nation Visa going some way to assuage concerns surrounding the effect of Brexit on sourcing talent.

Many of the themes explored today at Tech Nation are front of mind for GoCardless. We source talent globally and have hired from almost every continent. Over 30% of our people originate from outside the UK. We also host regular events and meetups for women in tech, such as Women who Code, Ladies in UX and Women Hack for Nonprofits. GoCardless is committed to improving diversity, sourcing top digital talent and ensuring all our people receive the best training to keep their digital skills sharp.

Find out more about the Tech Nation 2017 report here

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