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How does the tech sector in the North compare with the South? And is the Midlands more than just the middle? The techUK Local Digital Index 2023 may have the answer.

The future of work, training, care, communication, public services, commerce, research, innovation and trade will all rely on, and be impacted by technology and the tech sector. It is the backbone of the UK economy. 

The more we can understand the strength of the tech sector across the UK today, the better we can plan for the future of tomorrow.

In 2020, techUK began to track the tech sector across the UK, analysing six components including digital infrastructure, finance and investment, skills, digital adoption, research and development and trade. The results have been published for the past 2 years as our Local Digital Capital Index (now renamed to the Local Digital Index) which describes the impact and value technology can bring to regions across the UK, showcasing the strengths of different regions, and providing direction for development.

Last year, the findings presented a picture of a nation digitally divided. We noted a split between rural and urban areas, but also between the South and the North of the UK. Our localised data found that the biggest tech investment hubs such as London, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Bath and Bristol predictably showed a strong digital ecosystem across multiple components. However, Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East of England didn’t perform as well. This lack of a consistently strong digital ecosystem across the UK showed that further investment was essential to tap into the digital ecosystems of those local areas currently falling behind, and we called on the government to work with the industry to secure future growth in the sector, create jobs and invest at a local level.

On 16 October at Birmingham Tech Week, techUK will publish the 2023 edition of our Local Digital Index. We have been busy crunching the numbers and are pleased to present a sneak preview of some of the high-level findings, here:

  • Digital Infrastructure scores are improving and improving in rural areas too (showing progress on 2022) with better broadband speeds and mobile coverage available across the UK, but there’s still work to do in many parts of the UK to understand the uptake of this new infrastructure.
  • Digital Skills remain a concern in terms of the current and future workforce. Digital skills across the wider population still show gaps, and digital skills data more generally is poor and hard to track.
  • There’s a mixed picture in terms of Digital Adoption. We know all businesses rely on the digital tech sector now more than ever to power and support their work, but business counts have fallen, and the regional digital employment share is mixed.
  • Finance and Investment shows increased Foreign Direct Investment in ICT in some regions, VC and equity finance is still heavily weighted toward London, but the continued drop in high growth companies should be a concern.
  • There has been a rise in Research and Development spend, but a reduction in R&D tax credits which does not suggest a universally positive outlook for future innovation, with some steep drops in grant funding in some regions.
  •  Trade measured in goods and services exports has risen on last year with data compiled from 2021/2022. We may not see the impact of inflation and interest rate rises until the next iteration of the Index.

Most importantly, our 2023 Local Digital Index will feature a new analysis of the Gross Value Added (GVA) per region which should provide the clearest picture yet of the value, and potential value, of the tech industry in each area. This analysis will be launched at our event on 16 October.

We are delighted that BT Group will be hosting this event at their new offices in Birmingham as part of Birmingham Tech Week. The event will include guest speakers and panel sessions focused on the Index results, recommendations for how the tech sector can be strengthened across the entire UK, how tech companies are delivering for communities, and funding and financing the UK’s growing tech sector in 2023.

Speakers and panellists include the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Paul Scully MP, Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Alex Davies-Jones MP, West Midlands Tech Commissioner Martin Ward, BT Group Director for Data Platforms Kerensa Jennings, techUK Director of Markets, Matt Evans, CEO of School of Code Chris Meah, Programme Director for CivTech Mark Elliot, Microsoft’s lead across Greater Manchester Marie Hamilton, Co-Head of FinTech service at Shoosmith’s Prakash Kerai, Leeds City Council’s Head of Innovation Programmes Richelle Schuster, Founder of Piece Future Jason Loh, and Managing Director of Henham Strategy Nick King, and more!

So, if you want to find out how the tech sector in the North compares with the South? If the Midlands is more than in the middle? If the UK’s tech sector is too reliant on London? Or if other areas can steal a march to invest and innovate? Then join techUK on 16 October and join the debate.

Please follow this link to learn more about the event, agenda for the day and register your place.

Birmingham Tech Week takes place from 16 to 20 October with over 7,500 people attending. Events will run across the entire West Midlands covering a variety of important and innovative tech topics. You can learn more info about the week and sign up for events here.

Launch event: Local Digital Index 2023

On 16 October, as part of Birmingham Tech Week, techUK will be publishing the latest edition of our Local Digital Index. The Index and report will analyse the strength on the tech sector across the UK in fields such as digital skills, digital infrastructure, finance and investment and digital adoption as well as making recommendations for how the tech sector can be strengthened across the entire UK.

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