Calls for more regional UK tech support amid shift away from London-centric approach

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Government efforts to support regional UK tech ecosystems must be ramped up to ensure that overlooked areas can benefit equally, according to new research from the UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG).

In a new report, UKTCG, which represents tech organizations outside London, has outlined four key ways in which development of the tech sector can support social mobility and economic growth across the country.

"In launching the report and our ‘Four Big Ideas’, we’re calling for government to harness the huge potential of technology and the tech industry to unlock the potential in every region of the UK," said Katie Gallagher, chair of the UKTCG and managing director of Manchester Digital.

"Across the UK, we have numerous strong and individual tech ecosystems. By creating a digital and innovation policy which supports business and individuals in each region, we can support true social mobility and see real opportunity for businesses to grow alongside the fast-moving innovation within tech."

Regional UK tech talent pipelines need support

The first 'big idea' is that the UK should create a globally-competitive tech talent pipeline in every region.

While Digital Skills Bootcamps are helping more people to start out in tech careers, the flow-through to roles in industry is less efficient than it might be, the report found, with little incentive for prospective employers to take on someone at an unproven stage.

Finding appropriate industry placements for T-Level learners is also a challenge, according to UKTCG.

The Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) must invest in boosting capacity to match graduates from bootcamps and similar remote learning initiatives with businesses, the report advised.

This could be handled via a partnership between DfE, the locally-accountable authority for Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs), and a grassroots tech industry partner.

Strong 'digital foundations' key to national tech success

UKTCG also called for the government to drive digital innovation “at the foundations” to ensure that businesses can understand and benefit from opportunities from emerging technologies. 

The government should resurrect a version of its ‘Help to Grow’ initiative, the report said, which dramatically failed to reach its targets.

It should also develop a new UK Innovation Policy designed to spread opportunities equally, by embedding digital tech at the heart of regional development strategies and finding incentives for collaboration.


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Finally, UKTCG wants to see ecosystems mobilized to help businesses to start and grow, perhaps through R&D tax credit enhancement and grant funding ‘runway’ support for innovative firms and spinouts.

There's a big variation in support for startups around the country. According to a 2021 report, in the 20 years leading up to the Covid pandemic, nearly half (44.5%) of all spinouts came from Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, or UCL.

There are already moves to improve this situation. The government-funded Barclays Eagle Labs, for example, hosts 39 regional hubs throughout the UK, and 80% of the businesses it supports are outside London.

“We see this moment as a start of a conversation about how good practice from the grassroots can inform better delivery through a new partnership with Whitehall," Gallagher said.

"We need to learn the lessons from the last decade of centralized tech policy and delivery through departmental silos, which has left so much potential untapped. As grassroots tech leaders, we look forward to working with parliamentarians to put our plans into action."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.