U.K. Technology Sector Investment Doubles Despite Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- London’s technology sector is continuing to thrive despite the looming prospect of exiting the European Union, according to a new report.

British tech companies raised 4.5 billion pounds ($6.1 billion) in 2017, almost double the amount raised the year before, according to the report from Tech Nation, an organization partly funded by the government to promote the U.K.’s digital economy. The country ranks behind only the U.S. and China for venture capital investment, the report said.

London is ranked as the world’s second-most "connected" technology hub after Silicon Valley, based on entrepreneurs who report a significant relationship with two or more people based in the city. Citing data from Startup Genome, a group that helps cities build digital ecosystems, Tech Nation said that London topped Silicon Valley for the number of digital businesses with foreign customers -- 33 percent compared to 30 percent.

London also boasts one of the most international startup workforces in the world, with 54 percent of the employees of young digital companies having been born outside the U.K. That’s still fewer than Berlin, which is fast-emerging as a rival hub for European startups, particularly as founders worry about whether they will be able to hire foreign workers easily after Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019. The report noted that Berlin was the only other European technology ecosystem in the global top 10 across a range of metrics.

"Our new relationship with the EU will undoubtedly force us to be even more adaptive, innovative and ambitious," Gerard Grech, chief executive officer of Tech Nation, said in a statement.

Overall, the U.K.’s digital businesses are growing sales 2.6-times faster and adding employees at five times the rate of the rest of the economy, highlighting why the government is so interested in promoting the sector.

Matt Hancock, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said the country needed to ensure that the benefits of the digital tech boom extended beyond London to other parts of the country.

But the Tech Nation report showcased how difficult that task may be. London was the only British tech hub to rank in the top 20 globally in terms of market reach, international connections and funding.

The report also showcased how far the tech sector in the U.K. has to go to close the gender gap. Just 19 percent of the U.K.’s digital workforce is female, compared to 49 percent across all sectors.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.