Prime minister David Cameron today called for overseas technology experts to be given fast-tracked visas that enable them to work in the UK.
Tech City UK, the three-year-old government-backed body responsible for driving the UK technology sector, will work with the Home Office to ensure that, as of April 2014, UK companies are able to employ foreign entrepreneurs with a proven track record in developing successful businesses or creating new innovations.
Prior to the announcement, applications were restricted, and many companies – particularly small firms in the Tech City area – were forced to draw on a limited pool of suitable candidates.
Joanna Shields, Tech City's chief executive, said: "People weren't banging on my door, but every tech company that we talk to says that hiring is a problem."
The prime minister claimed that the "Exceptional Talent" visa route will help "to make Britain the best place in the world in which to start and grow a business".
"Today, Tech City serves not only as an example of how a city can be transformed into an engine for growth and innovation, but it is also a blueprint for fostering growth that has been recognised globally," he said.
Cameron also launched a partnership between EE and Tech City, which will enable selected businesses in the area to access EE’s 300Mbps 4G network.
The new measures, which coincide with the third birthday of Tech City UK, are being topped off with a £15.5 million funding package, that is designed to improve other technology ecosystems across the UK and will be controlled by the government’s Technology Strategy Board.
This includes up to £12.5 million in research and development funding competitions that will aim to boost digital and computing technologies across the UK. In addition, at least three new competitions of £1 million each will be run to encourage specialist clusters.
“This is not just about London,” the prime minister said. “We are determined to build a rebalanced economy across the country and get behind the entrepreneurs imagining a new tomorrow in the dozens of technology clusters, accelerators and start-up incubators across Britain.”