Digital technology firms in Leeds break the £1bn barrier as sector roars ahead

The Leeds Digital Festival acts as a sounding board for the digital sector. Pictured is director Stuart Clarke
The Leeds Digital Festival acts as a sounding board for the digital sector. Pictured is director Stuart Clarke
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DIGITAL technology firms in Leeds achieved a combined turnover of more than £1bn over the last year as the sector roared ahead of the rest of the economy, according to a new report.

The Tech Nation 2018 report also found that the average digital technology sector employee in Leeds adds around £83,000 to the regional economy each year.

The report concludes that the UK’s digital tech sector is worth nearly £184bn to the UK economy, up from £170bn in 2016. Turnover of digital tech companies grew by 4.5 per cent between 2016-17 compared to UK GDP which grew by 1.7 per cent over the same period, according to official figures compiled by Tech Nation, which is a new body that has been established to accelerate the growth of the sector across the UK.

The report said: “This means that the tech sector grew at 2.6 times faster than the rest of the economy.

“At the same time, the number of jobs in digital tech rose at five times the rate of the rest of the economy, demonstrating how the digital tech sector is one of the best performing sectors in the UK economy.”

York is among eight cities that are also showing above average tech employment, which demonstrate how the UK’s tech boom is spreading beyond locations like East London and Manchester where it is already well established, the report said.

Gerard Grech, chief executive and co-founder of Tech Nation said today : “Tech Nation 2018 is the first major milestone of Tech Nation, the organisation now working across the country to build networks that support ambitious entrepreneurs and shine a light on the achievements of our tech sector.

“The UK’s tech sector is growing almost three times faster than the rest of the economy.

“What started as Tech City is increasingly Tech Nation. London is the world’s second most connected hub after Silicon Valley.

“We need to make the most of that, as our new relationship with the EU will undoubtedly force us to be even more adaptive, innovative and ambitious.”

The report states that 2017 witnessed some of the biggest fundraisings and exits seen in years, as international investors flocked to fund UK-based firms.

British digital tech companies raised £4.5bn in venture capital investment during the year, almost double the previous year. Notable exits for the sector during 2017 included Matchesfashion.com which was sold to a private equity investor for almost £750m and Leeds-based CallCredit which was acquired by TransUnion for £1 billion.

Aldo Monteforte, the founder of telematics company, The Floow which is based in Sheffield said: “The Sheffield City region has traditionally been associated with heavy industry but there is a real buzz around the startup 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.

“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.”

The study showed that more ethnic minority workers are finding employment in technology.

Tech Nation 2018 reveals that the digital tech sector’s workforce is older than commonly perceived and more ethnically mixed than the average UK workplace. However the dearth of women in the digital tech sector remains a factor, albeit one that is beginning to be addressed.

On average 72 per cent of UK digital tech workers are over 35.

15 per cent of those in digital tech jobs are of black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) background, significantly higher than the 10% across all UK jobs.

Only 19 per cent of the digital tech workforce is female, compared to 49 per cent across all UK jobs.

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