UK entrepreneurs demand policy changes to keep UK number one tech hub

Startup coalition demands government moves policy 'into the 21st century' to spur growth.

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Oct 2014

A group of startups has urged the UK government to take steps to maintain London's status at leading European tech hub.

The 24-step plan, created by the Coalition for a Digital Economy and sub-headed 'How the next government should support digital startups in the UK', includes tax breaks for entrepreneurs volunteering to teach code, the easing of visa regulations to make it easier to recruit talent from overseas (including allowing VCs to sponsor employees on behalf of startups), and the creation of a legal framework for Bitcoin.

While it's addressed to the next government, the manifesto certainly rings with the right level of ambitious gusto to warm the cockles of the current PM. And it's being backed by the right people. Supporters include 150 startups and VCs, including the bosses of such shining tech lights as TransferWise, Funding Circle, Moo, Swiftkey, Lovestruck, Seedcamp and Zoopla.

But their demands aren't limited to making their own businesses function better. The manifesto also seeks greater resources for the Information Commissioner's Office which, thanks to budget cuts, has struggled to keep up with regulatory challenges of consumer data protection in the age of the internet.

Meanwhile it also urges the government to extend its Government Digital Service, which the coalition feels demonstrates the kind of open dialogue that tech enables between business and government.

Perhaps most astutely of all it also suggests provision for training people who've lost their jobs thanks to tech revolution – which is surely more positive than restrictive, protectionist measures that block potentially lucrative developments in the first place.

The whole thing sings with a degree of urgency, and one that's not misplaced. While London is leading the tech pack in Europe (although still far behind Silicon Valley), it is being caught by centres like Berlin and Stockholm. Indeed, in May the European Commission warned that the UK’s tech skills shortage could grow larger than anywhere else in the region by 2020.

Referring to the manifesto, Guy Levin, executive director of Coadec and former economic adviser to George Osborne, urged 'political parties interested in creating jobs, fostering innovation and making Britain a world leader in technology' to 'give it a read'.

If that doesn't seem quite in keeping with the urgent tone of words like 'manifesto', remember this is a tech revolution we're talking about – invariably less pitchforks and fireworks than t-shirts and coffee mugs.

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