In case of Brexit, UK tech would risk losing out on what is the most vibrant and growing sector of the UK economy, argues Tech London Advocates founder and chair Russ Shaw.
The Digital Post: How the UK government’s increasingly restrictive approach to immigration is affecting the domestic tech sector and why?
Russ Shaw: The pipeline for tech talent needs to be much larger, but the government’s increasingly restrictive approach to immigration is slowing this down. Experts predict that by 2020 we will suffer from a shortage of 300,000 digitally-skilled people. Members of Tech London Advocates have consistently identified a shortage of talent as the single biggest obstacle to the continued growth of London’s technology sector. The UK needs a growing, not a shrinking pool of skilled tech workers.
The Digital Post: Is this having an impact, or could it have an impact, on the European tech ecosystem as a whole?
Russ Shaw: London has been branded the most important tech hub across Europe, with the number of companies in London’s digital technology sector increasing by 46% since the launch of Tech City five years ago. Further restrictions to immigration policy could cause a redistribution of tech companies and leaders across other European capitals. Countries with more flexible immigration policies and respected tech reputations will attract much more EU and global talent deflected by UK immigration policy.
The Digital Post: The government immigration plans are not only targeting non-EU citizens. The Home Secretary openly called into question the free movement of workers across Europe. What this mean from the perspective of the UK tech industry?
Russ Shaw: The UK’s tech sector thrives off its diversity and international community. Thus, calling into question the free movement of workers across the Europe will distance us from the very tool central to much of the UK tech industry’s success.
The Digital Post: What would an EU exit mean for UK tech?
Russ Shaw: UK tech would risk losing out on what is the most vibrant and growing sector of the UK economy. Businesses will look to expand elsewhere and miss out on being part of EU-wide initiatives like the Digital Single Market, currently under development and discussion within the EU.
According to research conducted by business intelligence company Duedil and the Centre for Entrepreneurs, immigrant entrepreneurs have founded one in every seven companies in the UK and employ 1.16m people around the country. We need to continue to build the attractiveness for entrepreneurs doing business in London and across the UK in order to retain and nurture the best talent and create job growth.