One of the most respected figures in the UK tech sector has spoken out about the demise of Tech Nation.

Tech Nation is due to close at the end of March after losing a £12.1m grant to rival Barclays Eagle Labs.

Eagle Labs have yet to announce their future plans and now Stuart Clarke, founder of  Leeds Digital Festival, has spoken out.

Clarke, who was awarded an MBE for his services to technology in the New Year’s Honours list, wrote on LinkedIn: “I’ve had mixed feelings about Tech Nation losing its contract to support startups and scaleups, with the money being given to Barclays Eagle Labs.

“I’ve long been a critic of Tech Nation and its focus on tech in London and overseas, and feel they haven’t engaged widely enough throughout the rest of the UK.

Tech sector reacts as Tech Nation to be wound up

“They seemed to have forgotten the ’nation’ bit of its name. I’m sure they had more events in Singapore last year than in Leeds!

“It was a competitive tender and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) obviously thought that in order to encourage more tech startups across the whole of the UK, Eagle Labs were the best choice.

“They have 38 hubs across the country and will increase the number to 60+ in the next year or so, bringing help and advice to startups in places like Burnley, Leicester and Kilmarnock. Places that weren’t high on Tech Nation’s agenda.

“However, I will give credit to Tech Nation’s for two schemes: their visa programme and Rising Stars. I’ve written letters of support for four individuals in Leeds, who have been granted visas to work in the UK and are building tech startups, creating jobs and sharing their knowledge within the local tech sector.

“They’ve all commented on how professional Tech Nation were and made the process as smooth as possible (although the fees should be lower, but that’s a Government policy).

Lawyers demand clarity over Tech Nation closure

“Tech Nation’s predecessor in the North of England, Tech North, had a very successful startup competition called Northern Stars and Tech Nation wisely co-opted it and made it nationwide.

“It’s been a great success and I’ve been lucky enough to have been a judge a number of times. I hope that Eagle Labs doesn’t lose the experience and skills that the Rising Stars team have.

“I’ve enjoyed working with so many talented people in the Tech North/Tech Nation teams over the years. To those going through the redundancy process, good luck in the next stage of your career and hope to catch up again.”

The decision to close Tech Nation followed the decision by the government’s decision to hand the £12.1m Digital Growth Grant contract – designed to help small and scaling tech businesses across the UK – to Barclays Eagle Labs.

Monzo, Revolut, Depop, Bloom & Wild, Zilch, Just Eat, Darktrace, Marshmallow, Ocado, Skyscanner, Peak AI and Deliveroo are among the more than 5,000 businesses Tech Nation has supported.