In its 2018 report, Tech Nation conducted its biggest ever survey of people in digital tech with 3,428 responses.
The qualitative research reveals that entrepreneurs, investors and founders in the tech sector face broadly the same challenges, regardless of their location.
It found that access to talent is the most common challenge affecting 83 per cent of clusters. However there is some coming through for companies with opportunities available.
“The Sheffield City region has traditionally been associated with heavy industry but there is a real buzz around the start-up community now and what’s really exciting is that when you go to the pub or to the football people are actually starting to talk about career opportunities in tech that are available right on their doorstep,” said Aldo Monteforte, founder of Sheffield-based The Floow.
“Sheffield, together with other fast-developing Northern cities like Manchester and Leeds, is the home to many successful global companies and is benefiting from access to some great talent and a genuine entrepreneurial culture that’s fuelling strong growth momentum.”
After recruitment, access to funding is a top three challenge in 49 per cent of clusters and bad transport links are a top three challenge in 29 per cent of clusters.
The responses showed that Brexit is also less significant for companies outside London, which historically have relied less heavily on overseas talent to fill job vacancies.
The only places in which Brexit is cited as a top three challenge are Cambridge and London. However companies across the board are feeling the need to look further afield for talent.
“The initial tech community was based around Edinburgh university informatics department and much of the collegiate atmosphere has been retained,” said Edinburgh-based Skyscanner CEO and co-founder Gareth Wiliams.
“We started in Leith after the dot-com bust – so we learnt from Silicon Valley blogs and articles.
“We still want to keep learning from the best in the world – as well as leveraging a now vibrant local scene. That is why we need to be able to attract more senior leaders from US and Chinese tech hubs.”
The report found that in general tech communities across the UK are highly optimistic about the growth prospects for digital tech companies in their local area, both in terms of scale and number of businesses.
UK entrepreneurs are also overwhelmingly optimistic about the future of the UK’s digital tech sector.
Over 70 per cent of respondents think the number of digital tech businesses in their local area will rise over the next 12 months.
Over 90 per cent also think that the scale of digital tech businesses in their local area will either expand or stay the same.
Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital & chair of Tech Nation said: “From FinTech to healthtech, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence, the UK’s digital tech sector is having an impact on every aspect of our daily lives and economy.
“Tech Nation’s survey of the industry shows that confidence and optimism is high, but it is important for us to keep supporting this sector and give British companies the best chance they can to grow and scale.”
Simon Wax, partner at Buzzacott says that to ensure the long term success of UK tech, it’s vital that the UK’s young companies are able to scale successfully.
“Brexit is creating uncertainty over the UK’s access to the digital single market, the availability of technical employees and even funding for R&D – and all of this uncertainty is especially harmful for small businesses,” he said.
“It’s more important than ever that leaders of scaling tech companies focus on their long term success. Entrepreneurs must take a considered approach to fundraising, identifying the investors whose aims match their own, rather than taking the first offer of funds.
“Businesses must get smarter at accessing UK R&D funding, through sources like the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund or Innovate UK.
“Critically, scaling tech companies must fully understand their unique offering and niche in the market and develop a business plan focused on maximising it.”