Tech City News, a media organisation covering emerging UK tech companies, has launched a year-long campaign to get more migrants working in British tech firms.
The campaign, launched last night at Canary Wharf’s Level39 accelerator as the publication held its first International Hall of Fame awards, aims to shine a light on migrant's achievements in the tech sector and the contribution they make to the British economy.
Tech City News, which plans to dedicate more coverage to immigraiton issues over the course of the campaign, believes that the UK should try and be more like Silicon Valley, where one in three scientists and engineers are immigrants.
The government’s Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa is designed to enable foreign entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start, extend or take over a business. It was launched in 2008 to promote Britain as a hub for the world’s most talented and brightest entrepreneurs, and has since gone through several rule changes.
But a report published in March by Migreat.com, a website that provides entrepreneurs on how to get a visa, revealed that the government is excluding some of the best international tech talent from the UK because the process of obtaining a visa is “complex” and “bureaucratic”.
When the report was released, Migreat’s director of strategic partnerships, Josephine Goube, said: "In our research we found that in reality, the visa filters out exceptional international talents such as Seedcamp winners and entrepreneurs that raised more than £1 million start-up capital.”
In April, in a bid to address the issue, the government granted Tech City UK the power to give out 200 Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visas per year to fast-track some of the most talented overseas entrepreneurs, engineers and developers into the UK tech sector.
The Home Office, together with Tech City UK and the Tech London Advocates business support group, launched a scheme designed to give tech entrepreneurs and businesses access to immigration officials that could help them understand the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa, the criteria for endorsement and the application process.
Alex Wood, editor-in-chief at Tech City News, said: “Immigration is a net benefit to Britain, and in no industry is that more clear than our tech sector. I can think of no better proof of this statement than the individuals we celebrate here at the International Hall of Fame”.
Business secretary Vince Cable said: “Migrant entrepreneurs make a hugely significant contribution to the UK economy and the Tech City News International Hall of Fame puts the spotlight on the achievements of some of these individuals.
“The government is committed to fostering this talent and making the UK the place for their businesses to succeed."
Prior to the awards, a group of high-profile judges including Rohan Silva, former adviser to David Cameron, Mike Butcher, editor-at-large at TechCrunch and Sarah Wood, co-founder of Unruly, selected the top 21 international “movers and shakers” in Britain’s tech sector from a shortlist of 100.
Awards were given to backers (angels and VC investors), superstars (successful entrepreneurs), connectors (key influencers in the tech community) and ones to watch (up and coming founders).
Damian Kimmelman, serial entrepreneur and founder of DueDil, was presented the International Entrepreneur of Year award.
Other awards were presented to several individuals and companies that Techworld has written about in the past, including Level39’s Eric Van der Kleij (backer), StreetHub’s Alex Loizou (ones to watch) and Index Venture’s Robin Klein (backer).