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The case for connection: The next phase in the evolution of UK tech

For the last decade, inventors, investors, and government have looked to London to sustain the continuing growth of the nation’s tech startup ecosystem. Now the integration of cities across the UK into a national network will be crucial to the next phase of that ecosystem’s evolution. Natasha Guerra, CEO and co-founder of Runway East, explains why.

East London’s renowned “Silicon Roundabout” has been at the heart of the tech startup boom, the centre of a vibrant ecosystem cultivated over several years that has seen the capital spawn a number of world-class companies. But, while London’s huge scale and reach does still make it an undeniably attractive place to start and grow a fledgling business, there have been signs that London alone cannot sustain the growth of the UK’s startup economy. The next phase in the evolution of the UK’s innovation ecosystem will need to be directed by efforts to put burgeoning startup communities across the UK– to date, mainly supported in isolation of each other – on a more equal footing as part of a genuinely connected nationwide ecosystem that empowers tech UK startups to access everything they need to realise their full potential wherever they are based.

The London tech startup scene has become almost too successful for its own good, with companies facing ever-intensifying competition for – not to mention increasing cost of – talent, funding, space, and the other resources they depend on to sustain their growth. The squeeze on space, for example, can be seen in how so many co-working spaces (not Runway East, I hasten to add, which remains proudly committed to its focus on supporting startups) are increasingly occupied by well-funded corporates, agencies, and consultancies, themselves fleeing rising commercial property prices but having a knock-on effect on supply (and therefore price) of space for startups. WeWork, for example, recently admitted that just 15% of its members are software companies, highlighting how even flexible workspace is incredibly competitive for startups....