Good things come in small packages

Commentary by Gerard Grech, Chief Executive, Tech City UK

Some of the world’s biggest companies  – think Facebook, think British-based MatchesFashion.com – were once just small businesses, started in a garage or on a suburban high street.

As we watch Elon Musk put a luxury car into orbit, we have to celebrate the dreamers, the ambitious entrepreneurs who think that anything is possible and will put in the hours to prove it.

In the tech sector, SMEs and start-ups are providing high-quality jobs, employment to more than a million people and great career avenues for people with good skills.

There’s nothing ‘small’ about these businesses, where the average salary is almost £51,000, 44% higher than the average non-digital salary, and the digital tech turnover of the UK is now worth £170bn.

Since the digital tech sector is creating jobs twice as fast as the wider economy, it’s important to provide it with the right conditions to thrive.

Our Government has become increasingly knowledgeable about the digital tech sector and wants to do more for the small and growing companies that could create Europe’s first Facebook or Google.

Evidence of its enthusiasm for tech was seen in November 2017, when Tech City UK was given more funding and an expanded role so that it can work to connect ambitious entrepreneurs across the country.

Tech City UK and Tech North merged in April 2018, and became Tech Nation. This new venture will connect people in the fastest-growing tech clusters around the country. By sharing knowledge and expertise, we can help people to build entrepreneurs’ businesses faster and more successfully, so that they have a chance to compete on the world stage.

We already run programmes for tech businesses at different stages on their journey, but we plan to expand these to cover some of the hottest sectors right now.

Venture capital investment into the UK tech sector has continued to be high even with Brexit, and, in 2017, stood at £2.99bn, higher than any other European country.

Plans are being made to plug possible future funding gaps, as we leave the EU, from the British Business Bank. We must do all that we can to make sure that we stay out in front.

As we approach Brexit, there is also concern from small companies about talent shortages. The number of visas available to those in tech has been increased recently and Tech Nation is actively promoting this visa so that the sector uses its full allocation.

The UK already has a world-leading position in many new technologies including artificial intelligence, autonomous cars and Fintech. Within these sectors, there are many fast-growing businesses that have huge potential.

By networking across sectors, we amplify the abilities and reach of our most promising companies and people.

With the right environment and advice, the small can quickly scale to become significant in the tech world. Next stop is global.