However, we appear to be on the brink of a turning point. With Prime Minister Boris Johnson winning a decisive majority in the December 2019 general election, there appears to be a break in the relentless deadlock in the House of Commons. The clearest signal of this was the Brexit Bill finally passing through its third reading in the Commons on 9th January, meaning it has now gone to the House of Lords to be debated. We are now a step closer towards leaving the EU on 31st January 2020; whilst there is still a long way to go, it appears that the fog of uncertainty is beginning to clear.
However, there are still many unanswered questions, particularly for the UK’s tech sector, with many entrepreneurs concerned about how Brexit will impact their future growth ambitions.
Barriers for growth
The main issue troubling many UK tech startups is the impact Brexit will have on employment prospects. And with key roles such as graphic designers already in short supply, it’s hardly surprising that businesses are worried. Indeed, recent research by Studio Graphene revealed that 73% of UK tech startups were concerned about whether they would be able to hire staff with the right skill set over the coming twelve months.
For 69% of those surveyed, it is feared that Brexit will inhibit their ability to hire the staff they need to nurture the growth of their business. With so many worried about their growth prospects, it is perhaps unsurprising that the same number (69%) have confirmed support for the prime minister’s proposed points-based immigration system, provided that it would ensure more skilled tech workers would be able to enter the UK.
The concern now, is whether these anxieties of tech staff shortages have permanently dampened ambitions of tech growth in the UK.
Interestingly, the tech sector has remained largely positive about its future growth, in spite of its workforce worries. In fact, three quarters (75%) of tech startups are confident of their prospects over the next twelve months, according to Studio Graphene’s aforementioned research. Additionally, 74% of those surveyed expect their businesses to grow in the coming months.
It would seem that this optimism is not without reason. After all, the first seven months of 2019 saw the UK tech industry attract an average of $1 billion a month in investment – one and a half times the amount raised during the same period the year before.
The UK tech sector clearly holds great promise, and it’s encouraging to see many startups feeling positive about future prospects. However, it is vital that the government offers adequate support, to ensure that the momentum of the tech sector does not slow down.
The need for support
It is vital that the government commits to working closely with the UK tech sector to address the concerns of businesses and offer reassurance that the growth of the industry remains high on the agenda.
Such reassurance can be delivered in various forms. Firstly, action must be taken to ensure that international skilled workers have access to the UK tech sector. This will play a large part in calming startups’ worries of a tech skills shortage, and enable them to plan for the future with greater confidence.
However, the government should not stop there; it should go further and pledge greater investment to nurture future generations of budding tech experts. Investing in tech education will ensure that those leaving school, college and university are able to enter the workforce with the right skills for the tech sector. With the promise of fresh talent entering the workforce, the industry can look to the coming years with greater optimism.
Naturally, these changes won’t be instantaneous. However, it is vital that the government clearly outlines a commitment to support and nurture tech sector ambitions. Only then will we be able to ensure that the growth ambitions of the tech sector do not lose momentum as we creep closer to the Brexit deadline.
Ritam worked as a consultant for a decade for the likes of Accenture and Bank of America Merrill Lynch before, in 2014, going on to found Studio Graphene – a firm that specialises in developing amazing blank canvas tech products. Working with many startups alongside innovation teams in more established companies, the London-based agency plans, designs and builds astounding tech products for its clients. What’s more, Ritam and the team also use their experience and expertise to help leaders grow their business from ideation, to launch and beyond.