There’s been much speculation about the potential impact of Brexit on the UK tech’s sector, with many commentators wondering whether technology companies will invariably lose out on much needed international talent and business opportunities overseas.
While the technology community in the UK has largely opposed Brexit, giants such as Siemens and Amazon have seemingly decided to up their game in the UK following the referendum.
Although it’s impossible to predict what will happen and when, announcements in recent months suggest the UK is still open for business – at least for now.
We take a look at what some of the world’s biggest technology companies have planned in the UK as the government gears up to trigger Article 50 tomorrow; formally beginning Brexit proceedings.
Just yesterday, Siemens reaffirmed its long-term commitment to London. At an event in Berlin, organised to promote greater trade links between London and Germany, Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK, highlighted the importance of London and the UK as leading market for the firm in terms of both talent and investment.
The German engineering firm, which generated €79.64bn in revenue last year, is considered to be a prominent investor in London and currently employs more than 15,000 people in the UK.
Maier added: “London and the UK remains an important market for Siemens and is a good place to do business. While the exact terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union are unclear, we are committed to London in the long term.
“We will continue to apply our expertise in technology and engineering to the challenges that face cities, particularly urban transit and air quality. London remains a leading centre for innovation and technology and we see many opportunities for collaboration on talent, digitalisation and investment in the years ahead,” he concluded.
Earlier this month, homegrown technology company Dyson said it would begin working on a new multimillion-pound R&D centre to be opened in Wiltshire – a move PM Theresa May said represented a “vote of confidence” in the UK.
The company, renowned for its vacuum cleaners, is set to begin work on a new campus at a 517-acre former airfield in May. The new centre is part of Dyson’s £2.5bn investment into future technologies and will see the firm double its workforce to around 7,000 people in the next five years.
Sir James Dyson, a prominent supporter of Brexit, said the new campus would continue to allow the firm to create “world-class products” and jobs in the Cottswolds.
Credited with being the UK’s largest investor in robotics, Dyson will use the campus to focus on artificial intelligence as it seeks to develop technologies including solid state battery calls, vision systems and machine learning.
Apple created a buzz of excitement among the UK tech community when it announced plans in September last year to open a new HQ in London’s Battersea Power Station.
At the time, the Evening Standard reported Apple would be moving 1,400 of its employees from its eight different offices in London into the new offices in 2021. As per usual, the company did not disclose many details, but it’s believed it will occupy all six floors of the Grade II listed property, which underwent a £9bn refurbishment.
More recently, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook shared his thoughts with Theresa May during a meeting at Downing Street in early February, noting he was “very optimistic” about the UK’s future outside of the EU.
Despite this, the consumer technology company upset customers in the UK when it raised its computer and laptop prices by approximately 20% in October. As the pound sterling declined in value, Apple decided to mark up the price of its Mac Pro desktop computer from £2,499 to £2,999.
The image messaging and multimedia mobile application created by former Stanford University students Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown announced in January it had picked London as the home of its non-US activity.
A Snap spokesperson said at the time: “I am happy to confirm that the UK is the Snap Inc family’s hub outside the US. The UK’s strong creative industries make this a great place to build a global business.”
The firm already has a three-story office in London’s Soho, but said it would open an additional site nearby.
Snapchat, which employs around 75 people in the UK and recently went public, also has offices in Paris, Sydney, Odessa (Ukraine) and Toronto.
As much as the announcements made by Dyson, Apple and Snapchat paint a relatively rosy picture for the UK’s future outside of the EU, there seems to be no real consensus among other tech giants.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s Microsoft threw a spanner in the works when it joined an apparently growing list of companies threatening to pull investment from the UK in the aftermath of Brexit.
Microsoft, which generated a staggering $85.32bn in revenue last year, said the potential for “huge” import tariffs on goods imposed after Brexit may mean they would have to reconsider expansion across Britain.
The comments came after the prime minister confirmed in her Brexit speech that the UK would be leaving the Single Market and the customs union.
Like Apple, the tech giant also increased its prices in the UK by as much as 15% last month in direct response to the weakening pound.
In stark contrast to Microsoft, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon announced it would be expanding its UK workforce by 5,000 people in mid-February.
As part of its hiring drive, Amazon said it would be looking to fill roles across a series of departments, which would include software developers, engineers and technicians.
Although the firm was quick to announce its upcoming expansion plans, it has been far more secretive about the location of its drone delivery testing ground in the UK, which according to Business Insider is being carried out in a field approximately eight miles south-east of Cambridge.
Facebook also announced it would increase its presence in the UK by 50% when it unveils its new London HQ this year.
The US firm will hire 500 additional employees, including engineers, marketers, project managers and sales staff.
“The UK remains one of the best places to be a tech company,” said its London-based executive, Nicola Mendelsohn.
Google said at the end of last year that it was going to open a new headquarters building in London, which could see 3,000 new jobs created by 2020.
Speaking at the time, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, told the BBC the UK was still an attractive place to do business.
He said open borders and free movement for skilled migrants were “absolutely” paramount to ensure the success of the UK’s technology sector.
While it seems there’s no apparent trend in terms of what technology giants are looking to do in UK post-Brexit, it’s clear many of these companies are increasingly upping their game in the country. Figuring out whether this is positive or negative for startups and scaleups is still up for debate.