UK tech startups, which rely on access to talent from foreign countries, are increasingly being forced to consider relocation as immigration to Britain drops post-Brexit.
This is according to data from LinkedIn which found that the UK’s share is in decline as it faces tougher competition against other EU countries such as Germany, which has begun closing the gap for tech talent.
Despite its leading position in the European startup scene, the UK is beginning to fall short of tech talent as its access gets tougher mainly due to the impact of Brexit, which now makes the country a less attractive place to relocate professionals.
The UK lost more overseas talent than it gained in February 2018, with the highest decline in London.
A more recent report from LinkedIn found that there has been a decline in London’s access to talent as more people relocate to EU27 countries since the Brexit referendum - something replicated across the whole of the UK.
However, some startups are going even further, relocating to US regions such as Silicon Valley due to what they have to offer: funding – something the UK may be falling behind on.
Ways to keep startups in the UK
Speaking at the Digital Shadows event in London, Mark Walker, tech and urban specialist at the Mayor’s international business programme said: “I think that it’s a very important thing to see that our government is aware of its role in this.
“It very much is kind of like a fire starter type of approach whereby, we do something to get it going. You get the embers burning and you blow on them just to get them going a bit and then you step back and let the industry come in and take over from that point.”
In 2017, the UK was recognised as the top destination for Silicon Valley investors, with over 90 percent of the total venture capital raised by UK tech firms, according to research from London and Partners.
Alastair Paterson, cofounder of Digital Shadows said: “If you look at the US and why it’s successful, there are a lot of reasons but they’ve got a talent pool of over 300 million people to draw on, and one of our advantages that we’ve got over here if of course, we’ve had 500 million in the EU to draw on that could just come and work here.
“So when we go back to 60 million post-Brexit, I think the government is in thinking about how we maintain access to that highly skilled community when there’s a global talent shortage in data science, cybersecurity and top engineering roles.”
Traditionally, the UK has been popular when attracting overseas professionals to work in the industry so to see a decline in what has had a wide reach for a long period raises questions for many.
The UK government is normally praised for its support for startups, with various programmes and funding offered for new startups, but over the years it seems that founders may be receiving better offers from other countries which then leads to a shortage in UK talent.
“I think we do attract an awful lot of overseas talent from outside Europe as well, international students come to study here in London. They’re actually starting businesses at the same time and getting involved in various different sorts of startups.
“That’s something we need to encourage as it’s now more of an area where students finish their studies and they take all of that wonderful knowledge back to their home countries and utilise it there, and what we need to find as national government is a way of actually holding onto that expertise that we’ve helped nurture and grow,” Walker said.
It is also important to recognise that the government plays a big part in the tech industry’s reach on a wider scale, this is due to the support that is offered to new professionals exploring the market, which is what determines their passion to remain in the country.
“I think there is an element that the national government does need to be educated more in the tech space, but there were really good things especially on the gaming side of things about two or three years ago where a report came out from DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport], that actually was able to identify the value that the video games industry added to the UK economy.
“A lot of ministers were blown away by how large that was, and a lot of it is actually about awareness,” he added.
In April 2018, the government paired with over 50 tech companies in the UK to contribute towards the development of an AI sector deal worth £1 billion which aims to put the UK at the forefront of artificial intelligence.
The UK’s tech industry remains a leader in new and emerging technologies, but with other countries hot on its heels and Brexit around the corner, it can hardly afford to be complacent.