Global tech investment in the UK is helping the thriving sector to contribute more than £130 billion every year to the national economy.

Speaking at the start of London Tech Week in June, Theresa May noted the £1.2 billion of foreign investment currently earmarked for the British technology sector.

Mrs May also outlined some of the country’s own future tech challenges, including:

  • Using building tech to halve energy use in new buildings by 2030.
  • To use data and AI to improve early diagnosis and treatment of chronic illness by 2030.
  • To establish one low-carbon industrial cluster by 2030.
  • To establish one net-zero industrial cluster by 2040.
  • To make all new cars and vans net-zero emission by 2040.

She announced £150 million of government investment into quantum technologies too – describing quantum tech as comparable to the internet in its potential to transform our lives.

Quick on the uptake

The prime minister said: “One of the great attractions of our business environment here in the UK is that our consumers are innovative and always keen to try new things out.

“That is why we lead the world in online commerce, and why contactless payment in this country has grown so quickly.”

She added that she worked at the Association for Payment Clearing Services in the 1990s when the organisation was investigating the possibility of using a single card for all payments.

As of 2018, there were 7.4 billion payments made using contactless cards – and that figure was up by almost a third compared with 2017.

This is just one example of the everyday technology innovations that have become a part of British life in recent years and decades.

Rapid tech growth

Quick uptake of new technology means rapid growth for innovators in the sector.

The term ‘unicorn’ is used in business to refer to privately owned companies with a valuation in excess of $1 billion – once as rare as the mythical beast they are named after, but increasingly common now.

According to Mrs May, Oxford and Cambridge have produced ten unicorn companies – more than Paris – and Manchester has created five, equalling the combined totals of Madrid and Barcelona.

Growth in the British technology sector is more than 1.5 times faster than the average for the rest of the UK economy.

And the prime minister added that the government is embarking on a “decades-long commitment” to put 2.4% of GDP towards spending on research and development.

“It is a strategic long-term commitment,” she said, “a partnership between business and government to make Britain the best place in the world in which to start or grow a business.”

Improving entry to tech jobs

Businesses need talented people, and Mrs May went on to detail some of the measures being implemented by the government to improve access to tech jobs for talented individuals from the UK and abroad.

Some of the steps being taken include:

  • A target time of 10-15 days at most to process immigration applications from skilled workers.
  • Compulsory computer programming classes at primary school level.
  • Up to 2,500 masters conversion courses in data and AI starting next year.
  • Up to 1,000 scholarships to enable access to these courses regardless of personal wealth.
  • £100 million funding for 1,000 PhDs in AI and a fellowship scheme for top AI researchers.

The returns on this investment will be long-term, and the prime minister quoted Bill Gates on the subject of how quickly technology innovation takes place:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

As the UK stands on the cusp of several major technologies, from quantum computing to decarbonisation, British tech companies are seeing significant interest from abroad – leading to rapid growth, substantial investments and an ever-increasing number of unicorns.


Disclaimer: The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.