Skills, technology and confidence at the heart of the UK’s information economy

From electronics and 5G mobile to the exploitation of data, the UK has a rich ecosystem of technology companies - but more needs to be done

The UK technology sector contributes 8% to UK GVA (gross value added) and employs 1.2 million people. In London, it grew 16.6% between 2009 and 2012, and there are strong clusters throughout the country – for example Malvern for cyber security, and Software City in Sunderland.

From the design of electronic systems and development of 5G mobile networks, to the exploitation of data – the UK has a rich ecosystem of companies large and small, new and established, domestic and global. These companies are delivering rapid innovation and driving fundamental change across every sector of the economy.

Their success is critical to the UK’s industrial strategy and a return to sustainable, balanced growth. But given the size of the opportunity, we need to aim higher and go further, faster.

The Information Economy Council (IEC) – a partnership between government and industry – helps companies in the sector to grow and keeps the UK at the forefront of the global race to become a digital economy. The IEC has identified three key areas - skills; future technologies and infrastructure; and business environment and confidence.

Skills shortages

Skills shortages are a common denominator across the sector. Many companies report difficulties in filling vacancies and voice concerns about the skills supply of the future.

The industry-led skills working group of the IEC is developing a package of measures to address the skills challenge. This will include new initiatives, such as harnessing the potential of MOOCS - massive open online courses - to accelerate the transition of more people into the sector.

The group strongly supports the industry-led industrial partnership for skills in the information economy which, subject to contract, will receive up to £22m from the government, with £64.5m in matched funding from employers, creating 100,000 more technology careers by 2018.

Future technologies

Future technologies and infrastructure underpin the information economy and a working group has identified where issues are falling between existing initiatives and where related activities are not joined up.

The IEC is working with the Cyber Growth Partnership, the Smart Cities Forum, the Connected Digital Economy catapult and the Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy to address these issues.

Business confidence

The business environment and confidence are key to growth. We are working hard to better understand the size and capabilities of the UK sector - identifying actions that would help more companies to scale more quickly, ensuring trust and confidence.

We want to hear your thoughts on skills, technology and confidence in the tech sector – please contact us or offer your thoughts in the comments section below

Victor Chavez, chair of Information Economy Council

Making effective decisions depends on good data. The IEC is not confident that official statistics are keeping up with the pace of change, so we want to develop a more accurate and timely way to define and measure the sector.

Data is also the single issue that affects the future of all technology companies. Used effectively, it enables us to understand the world around us and transform the way we do things. However, we need to maintain the trust and confidence of businesses, consumers and citizens. The draft EU data protection regulation is of utmost significance and will be a key focus this year.

This is only the beginning, and the size of the opportunity is enormous. We want to hear your thoughts on skills, technology and confidence in the technology sector – please contact us or offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

Victor Chavez (pictured) is president of technology trade association TechUK and chair of the Information Economy Council.

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment