The Tech Nation Report 2021 has arrived. Looking at the future UK. tech built, the report details how UK tech pioneers are shaping our coronavirus recovery – and the proof is in the data.

The report opens with the key statistic that UK tech VC investment is third in the world, hitting a record high of $15bn in 2020 in the face of challenging conditions. And where Bristol and Bath is concerned, we have ranked third in the UK for tech investment, after London and Oxford, with businesses cumulatively raising $414m.

Tech Nation says investment in UK nations and regions has remained strong through the pandemic with the South West posting a record year, alongside the South East and West Midlands.  Bristol & Bath is also ranked 12th across Europe for investment in tech, ahead of places such as Barcelona, Cambridge & Madrid.

The South West now has almost 17,500 firms in the tech sector, employing 68,000 people and turning over £9bn.

Whilst there are some super figures in the 2020 report showing how the area is a leading European hub, it’s clear we’re still missing our full potential.

Only 8.8% of South West tech roles are filled by people of colour, and we’re nowhere near gender parity. Not only that, but nationally 1.7% of the total was invested in ethnic minority founders (dropping to a tiny 0.02% in Black female founders) and only 3% of VC funding went to all female teams. Incubators like SETsquared are doing much to change the founder balance but much more needs to be done nationally and locally.

The bigger picture

The UK tech sector has shown both remarkable resilience and growth in 2020 in spite of unprecedented challenges across the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit uncertainty.

Insights from the report reveal a number of successes the UK can celebrate, including world-leading growth in deep tech investment at 17%, while North America and Asia both experienced falling rates between 2019 and 2020. 

Venture capital (VC) investment in Net Zero tech also boomed by 160%, with a surprise 160% growth in transport tech VC investment, despite global lockdowns last year.

UK Tech IPOs gained strong momentum in 2020, signalling the UK’s attractiveness for tech companies and the continued health of the UK late-stage tech ecosystem. Eight of the UK’s tech unicorns IPO’d on the LSE in 2020, raising a total of £3.1bn. 

The climate tech sector in the UK is developing rapidly, evidenced in part by the fact that the amount invested across the whole sector grew 81% between 2018 and 2019, and another 63% between 2019 and 2020 to reach £1.3bn. Wales in particular saw radical developments in 2020; a £150m deal for Riversimple which manufactures hydrogen-powered electric vehicles contributed to a record year for climate tech in Wales with more than 17 times the total amount invested in 2019.

Gerard Grech, founding chief executive, Tech Nation, says, “This year has highlighted the UK tech sector’s enormous resilience and world-beating innovative spirit. In the face of a major global crisis, it has not only survived; in many areas, it has boomed. From EdTech to HealthTech, digital pioneers are rebuilding the British economy and setting new standards worldwide.”

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.