UK computer game manfuacturers are struggling to find skilled programmers following a fall in the number of students taking computer science, maths and physics university courses, according to the games industry.
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A lack of programmers for UK software publishers could mean the loss of £700m of foreign investment into the UK and 1,700 jobs over the next five years, said research firm Games Investor Consultancy.
Richard Wilson, CEO of Tiga, the trade association of UK games software publishers, said that the supply of programmers in the UK was not meeting demand.
"There has been a 15% drop in the number of students taking computer science, maths and physics degrees over the past 10 years," said Wilson. "This has reduced the amount of skilled programmers coming out of universites."
Wilson said that software publishers are struggling to find high-level mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists that have the analytical and problem-solving skills they need to code games, which themselves are becoming more complex to write.
Rick Gibson, director at Games Investor Consultancy, said that a shortage of programmers would mean that UK software developers would not be able to grow their business at the same rate as international rivals.
A shortage would also mean increased labour costs. Outsourcing was not an option because it would be expensive and success in video game programming required knowledge of the local culture, said Gibson.
Between 2006 and 2008 UK video games earned £4bn globally and contributed £200m to the UK balance of trade, according to figures from Game Up?, a campaign led by Tiga to improve skills of UK video game programmers.
The CBI warned last year that urgent action was needed to reverse a decades-long decline in the study of science, technology, engineering and maths to meet the needs of a changing UK economy.
"Some employers are already finding it difficult to get the right talent, and the problem is set to get worse," said Richard Lambert, CBI Director-General. "The UK cannot compete with the developing world on low-skilled jobs, so to thrive in the global market we must excel in the higher-skilled roles that demand expertise and innovation."