UK Doubles Down On Tech Visas

20 November, 2017 | By Ruchika Sharma

Brexit approaching its finalization date has led to  UK hastening up its quest to find solid ground in its contentious exit negotiations. In line with this, the government has decided to take a certain set of steps to start initiatives to try and shore up support to (and from) the country’s technology industry. Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond have announced that  UK would double the number of visas issued to “the brightest and best” talent to 2,000.

To further strengthen its coffers, the UK government plans to commit 61 million Pound Sterling (80 million USD) to develop three key investment areas. They are to spend 21 million pounds to expand Tech City which was just a London initiative up to now. This is aimed to make a country-wide network called Tech Nation. 

This initiative will result in hubs opening up in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Birmingham, among 10 in total. They are also to spend twenty million pounds in the training of youth aged fourteen to eighteen to help thwart off cyber-attacks in UK. The government plans to set up an investment fund with the remaining twenty million pounds to fund projects aimed at infusing new tech innovations like AI into public services.

With the Annual Budget coming up on November 22, the timing of this particular announcement can very surely be called an extremely strategic move on the part of the government. The aim of these announcements is to infuse a sense of reassurance in the tech industry operating in the UK that despite the current plethora of issues that it is dealing with, the country will continue to develop newer ways to support the burgeoning tech sector as well continue to make available to them a vast pool of brilliant talent from around the globe. 

The British economy has taken a few punches since the verdict of the referendum. The Pound has fallen drastically in value compared to its peers and even the housing market has seen some slowdown, resulting in the slight easing off on prices.  This has resulted in a smaller revenue stream for the government.

The amount that the government plans to deploy into the earlier said initiatives dwarfs itself, if compared to the venture capital private and equity funding that has done the rounds last year. 2016 saw almost 9.5 billion USD being invested by venture capital and private equity firms in the UK tech space, as per reports published by London and Partners.

A question still looms over the future profitability or global impact of the Tech Nation initiative by the government. La French Tech, the French counterpart of UK’s projected Tech Nation, gets around eighteen million USD in annual support and has raised its profile to quite a prolific level internationally. 

Perhaps more to the point, this is more of a sign of how the government, bolstered by an advisory board built from tech entrepreneurs and financiers, understands what the tech industry potentially means to the economy in the UK, and its position in the global economy.

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