Tech startups to lead the UK out of lockdown, experts suggest

Empty office

The UK's tech startups can lead the rest of the country out of lockdown and into a new way of working, lobby groups have said.

It's thought that the sector could drive a new work balance of remote, flexible and physical working that helps businesses manage the return to work, but also provide a blueprint for future workplaces.

Today, the government announced an extension to its furlough scheme, extending it until October with the aim to support businesses in gradually bringing employees back into the fold.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that there will be no changes to the current scheme until the end of July, where a more flexible approach will be brought in. From then on, employers will be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time.

"I can announce today that the job retention scheme will be extended for four months, until the end of October," the chancellor said in the House of Commons. "By that point, we will have provided eight months of support to British people and businesses."

Sunak's announcement provided a level of clarity that many have suggested was lacking from the prime minister's update the previous day. With the government keen to jump-start the economy, however, some tech hubs have welcomed the government's encouragement to continue remote working where possible.

"The guidance will help tech start-ups plan for an eventual return and have the right conversations both with staff and the co-working spaces they might be using to ensure safety and employee confidence," said techUK's associate director of policy, Vinous Ali.

"The UK's startup scene is one of the most vibrant in the world and is fundamentally important to the future success of our digitised economy. It was one of the early adopters and developers of the co-working models we see so widely used today.

"With clear guidance from the government, the UK start-up scene can get up and running once more and will drive a new hybrid workplace that mixes remote, flexible and physical working in a way that supports innovation."

The tech community has welcomed the ongoing commitment from the government in supporting its startups, according to Tech London Advocates founder, Russ Shaw.

"We've seen it in subsequent weeks with the introduction of new schemes and proposals that have been put in place to ensure that our tech sector remains intact as we gradually transition out of this," he said.

"For tech companies, much like the rest of the economy, clarity is critical. The majority of start-ups and scale-ups have adapted to remote working brilliantly, but if they are to begin returning to a physical space, the safeguarding of employees will be the priority.

"We ask that the government remains in close contact with key leaders in the sector, and supports them with the direct and unequivocal instructions that they need."

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.