New data has highlighted 2021 as the best ever year for the UK’s tech sector.
Analysis for the UK’s Digital Economy Council by Dealroom and Adzuna identified Cambridge as the leading regional tech city thanks to its combination of high levels of VC funding, venture capital rounds, advertised tech salaries, number of unicorns – tech companies worth more than $1 billion – and ‘futurecorns’.
Manchester was only narrowly beaten by Cambridge while capital cities Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast are also in the top ten for capital raised.
The number of jobs in Manchester increased by 164.6% in 2021 and the highest advertised average salaries outside London were in Edinburgh – £58,405.
Levelling Up Power Tech League 2021
With more money than ever flowing into UK tech – £26 billion this year, up 2.3x from last year’s figures of £11.5 billion – almost £9bn of all VC invested went into startups and scaleups outside London and the South East and the regions are home to nine of the 29 unicorns formed this year.
This regional growth took place against the backdrop of an incredible year for the UK tech industry. Tech investment grew 2.3x this year, the highest growth since 2013 to 2014 when it grew from $2 billion (£1.5 billion) to $4.6 billion (£3.5 billion).
The £26bn raised by UK startups and scale-ups was nearly double the figure raised in Germany (£13.5 billion) and is more than three times that raised by France companies (£8.6 billion). UK tech investment made up 35% of the total £76 billion that flowed into the European tech ecosystem this year.
UK venture capital firms have also had a record year and raised £7 billion with record-breaking fundraisings from London firms including Index Ventures, Balderton Capital, 83North and Eight Road Ventures.
The majority of the money coming into UK tech is from the US, with 38.2% of all funding coming from the States, up from 31.5% last year, with the majority of it going into FinTech and HealthTech companies. Over 28% of UK venture funding came from domestic capital. Competition for deals among VC funds is heating up as more US venture funds launch offices in the UK, including Bessemer Venture Partners, General Catalyst, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital.
More funding means more unicorns, with 29 created this year including the eCommerce platform Depop, car selling platform Motorway, insurance disrupter Marshmallow and the challenger bank Starling Bank. This takes the UK’s total unicorn figure to 116 – meaning 25% of the UK’s total unicorns were created in 2021 alone. The UK has more unicorns than France (31) and Germany (56) combined.
Nine out of the 29 unicorns created this year are outside of London including Interactive Investor in Glasgow, Vertical Aerospace in Bristol and Touchlight Genetics in Hampton. Of all the unicorns created in the UK, 35% are outside of London and 35% of futurecorns are also based outside of the capital, suggesting that the growth in tech in the regions will continue strongly in the next five years.
The publication of Lord Hill’s UK Listings Review in March supported a strong year for the London markets, with 118 companies choosing to list in the UK raising over £16.8bn (YTD), the most capital raised since 2007. This made the UK the most active venue globally for IPOs outside the US and Greater China.
The London Stock Exchange has hosted more than twice as many transactions as the next most active European market, with a combined £49.0bn raised through IPOs and Follow-On Issuance. The 37 tech and consumer internet companies that have listed this year achieved a combined market cap of £31bn. The London Stock Exchange has also supported 30 founder-led companies to list this year.
Standout performers such as Oxford Nanopore and Wise have demonstrated the significant appetite from investors for quoted high-growth companies and this positive momentum is set to continue into 2022.
The increased levels of money going into UK tech also mean companies are in need of trained technical and business staff. There has been a 50% rise in overall UK tech job vacancies advertised this year compared to 2020’s figures, with advertised tech vacancies hitting 160,887 in November. Currently, tech vacancies make up 12% of all available jobs in the UK, with just over 50% of these jobs available outside of London and the South East.
Software developers are still the most in-demand tech job across the UK. These positions make up 9% of all tech jobs with prospective developers being offered an average salary of £64,318, a 12% increase on 2020’s figures. Specialist staff such as java developers and IT systems architects continue to be able to command high salaries with the average advertised wage for these roles being £80,076 and £93,004 respectively.
The UK tech industry continues to lead the way when it comes to hiring practices since technical jobs are well positioned to be carried out remotely. In fact, 21.6% of all job ads in the IT sector are advertised as remote roles. This is also contributing to the spread of the UK tech ecosystem beyond London as businesses can hire across the country and find the staff that they need, regardless of location.
Digital Minister Chris Philp said: “It’s been another record-breaking year for UK tech with innovative British startups helping solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.
“Capitalising on this fantastic investment across the country is a crucial part of our mission to level up, so we are supporting businesses with pro-innovation policies and helping people to get the skills they need to thrive in this dynamic industry.”
Saul Klein, partner and co-founder at LocalGlobe, said: “It’s taken 20 years for UK tech to get to the starting line and things start to get interesting in the next 20 years.
“We have all the ingredients to become the leading tech ecosystem in the world, with record levels of R&D, financing and established tech hubs across the country from New Palo Alto in Kings Cross, to Cambridge, Edinburgh and Manchester.
“But the key differentiator for investors in future will be a willingness to take an ethical approach to building businesses. We can be world-class in this and over the long term this will set our companies apart from those built in the US and China.”