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Brexit tech investment stall threatens UK talent pool, says TLA

Research by Tech London Advocates has found investment in London’s tech sector has dropped since the Brexit announcement in 2016, threatening access to growth and talent

A lack of investment in technology companies as a result of Brexit has damaged London’s reputation in the sector and threatened the UK’s talent pool, according to research by Tech London Advocates (TLA).

The independent network of technology leaders found 23% of technology companies in London have delayed decisions about investment as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, said: “It is no surprise that London tech investment fell in 2018 when so many tech companies are experiencing investors deferring decisions until they see some clarity around Brexit.

“One thing is certain – the political situation is harming our fastest-growing industry and making access to capital and talent harder than ever before.”

Individuals with technical skills from outside of the UK have become harder to find as Brexit approaches – 60% of tech entrepreneurs have said it has been more difficult to find international talent since Brexit negotiations started.

Sherry Coutu, serial entrepreneur and executive chair of the Scale Up Institute, said many entrepreneurs feel they are being held back by a lack of access to talent, and advised organisations should do more to educate young people on what types of jobs are available.

“If you can’t taste the experience of work, then you can’t really imagine yourself in it,” she said. “It’s the single most important thing for young people, getting work experience.”

London still managed to attract more international technology talent in 2018 than the rest of Europe, but many non-UK nationals are concerned about what Brexit might mean for their future in the UK.

Almost 30% of TLA members said their staff has raised concerns about new visas rules and possible immigration regulations after Brexit.

A government whitepaper recently claimed the cap on tier 2 skilled working visas could be lifted to allow more skilled workers from outside of the European Economic Area to work in the UK, which will include those from Europe once the UK leaves the EU.

But Tara Reeves, partner at OMERS Ventures, said London firms are still keen to invest in talent and talent is still interested in working in London, despite other barriers. “The bigger issue for those people is the cost of housing in London, not visas,” she said.

When the UK announced it would be leaving the European Union, technology experts put an emphasis on the importance of developing technical talent within the UK itself to pre-emptively fill future skills gaps which could be caused by Brexit.

The 2014 computing curriculum aimed at teaching young people the technical skills they would need for the future, such as coding, but many believe it is inflexible and not fit for purpose.

“We need a shift in the way we think about our schools, our colleges and our universities,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general at CBI, adding that the UK needs to “stop thinking about work and education as two separate things in life”.

Many believe there needs to be more focus on continuous learning in the UK, especially in areas such as technology where the pace of change is rapid.

Read more about technology talent

  • The government has announced plans for a Cyber Security Council to form a strategy for developing future cyber talent.
  • Digital transformation, GDPR, cloud and artificial intelligence all need skilled people, and the shortage of talent is a leading concern, according to Gartner.

Read more on IT education and training

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