The government recently published its long-awaited ‘Levelling Up’ proposals, which identified that while talent is spread equally across our country, opportunity is not.
The White Paper, a blueprint to help address the divide in the UK, has 12 national missions to boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by growing the private sector, especially in those places where they are lagging; spread opportunities and improve public services, especially in those places where they are weakest; restore a sense of community, local pride and belonging, especially in those places where they have been lost; and empower local leaders and communities, especially in those places lacking local agency.
The UK’s tech industry will play a significant role in the levelling up agenda. With investment growing 2.3x in 2021 to reach £29.4 billion, and this growth spreading outside of London to other regional cities, the industry is an example of how talent and opportunity can come together to create a thriving and world-renowned ecosystem.
London is levelled-up
London’s tech sector is a stand-out example of this levelling up success in practice. Its FinTech scene, in particular, benefits from a wealth of investment, something we’ve seen rocket in the past few years. The UK’s fintech industry witnessed a staggering 713 investment deals in 2021, 11% of the global total – highlighting that FinTechs are no longer just plucky challengers and alternatives, but a vital part of the future of the financial services industry.
There’s no doubt that investment in London’s FinTech scene has created a community like no other across the UK – with companies coming together to share success, failures, knowledge and ideas. Accelerators have been a vital part of its success story as they support grassroot talent, offer work placements for students and opportunities for businesses to grow.
TransferGo itself is the product of Canary Wharf’s Level39, so I have seen first-hand the benefit of these. This is why targets set out in the White Paper, like the £100m of investment in three new innovation accelerators in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Glasgow City-Region, are a huge step forward in the right direction in helping level-up other parts of the UK.
The value of building diversity into the workforce
However, in addition to funding, what sets the London tech scene apart from the rest of the UK is its diverse workforce, and for other areas to see the same success, a focus on attracting talent from other parts of the UK, and overseas will be key.
While the White Paper sets out plans to boost private-public-academic partnerships and skills training across the UK, levelling up plans must include support for businesses to create attractive propositions for both those in the area and outside.
Diversity in technology is not a tick box exercise, but rather an imperative for innovative companies with a global impact. According to The Entrepreneurs Network, 49% of the UK’s fastest-growing start-ups have at least one foreign-born co-founder. In fact, 9 out of 14 UK start-up unicorns have at least one foreign-born co-founder. As a migrant FinTech founder myself, I can attest to the value of being in a city that not only encourages technological innovation but is supported by the government.
Seek intellectual curiosity
In addition to this, attracting talent from other industries is important. For example, the fintech industry isn’t just for those who have a pure technology or finance background. Many companies in the sector have benefited from hiring those with simply an intellectual curiosity about how technology can benefit people and in turn have gone on to solve a range of challenges within the industry – whether that’s helping consumers digitally send money overseas or providing CFOs with increased visibility and control of a company’s spend.
While the White Paper is a fantastic start to helping spread the success seen in the likes of London throughout the UK, it will be important for companies – especially in the tech sector – to learn from those in the capital that have attracted a rich tapestry of talent and benefit from a culture of innovation spurred on by accelerators. Only then will they truly level up.