The UK has been ranked as the top G20 country for the ease of starting a digital business and navigating through the country’s regulatory environment, according to new research released by EY today.

The UK scored the highest marks for its digital business environment, which includes regulation, such as recruitment practices, taxation frameworks, time taken to start a business and legal efficiency.

The UK was second, only to the United States, for its digital knowledge base and information and communications technology market, which includes access to technology and expertise, as well as the quality of research institutions.

The EY G20 Digital Entrepreneurship Barometer assesses a country’s performance against five indicators of entrepreneurship to help identify areas of relative strength and opportunities for improvement. The model is composed of quantitative data to capture entrepreneurial conditions across G20 economies and in addition to the above, also looked at access to finance, digital skills and entrepreneurial culture and education.

Radhika Chadwick, Partner for Digital Government at EY comments: “It’s great to see the UK leading the way for supporting digital start-ups. Taking the hassle out of getting a business off the ground boosts the creation of innovative and dynamic businesses, which drive economic growth in the UK.

“Although vocal on the digital and start-up agenda, the government itself cannot be left behind. Bringing the same digital environment into Whitehall will ensure greater savings are delivered for the taxpayer through better use of technology as well as the public reaping the benefits of faster and more efficient public services.”

UK lagging behind on access to finance and digital skills

The UK’s lowest ranking amongst the G20 nations was for access to finance such as venture capital and angel funding (ninth place). However, the UK fared slightly better on availability of digital skills and entrepreneurial education taking seventh place and was listed fourth for fostering an entrepreneurial culture.

Radhika comments: “Access to finance and digital skills look to be a bigger challenge for young UK entrepreneurs compared to other G20 countries but despite this, we are still faring better than the majority.

“Promoting entrepreneurialism through TV programmes such as Dragon’s Den, as well as greater publicising of start-up funds for young people will go a long way in giving a leg-up to wealth creators of the future.”

G20 leaders must do more to support young entrepreneurs

The Barometer is the basis of a new report, “Digital Disruption — Threat or Opportunity for Entrepreneurship?” which has been released to mark the start of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA) summit in China. The report warns that G20 leaders must do better to support young entrepreneurs through policies that ensure digital disruption enables rather than hinders their business development plans. It also identifies key policy recommendations, including clear governance on data access and privacy; support for cross-border research clusters, and the establishment of a new G20 youth entrepreneurship mobility visa.

Bjorn Conway, Head of UK Government and Public Sector at EY, comments: “With Brexit on the horizon, the UK government, more so than the other G20, will be thinking about how the economy can be set up to succeed in this digital age.

“By understanding the issues that young entrepreneurs face, policy can help play a critical role in turning digital disruption into a powerful opportunity.

“Supporting an entrepreneurial environment that encourages our young people to establish, grow and scale their businesses will ensure the UK continues to be competitive on the world stage into the future.”

The report’s top policy recommendations are:

Access to finance:
 Support the development of early-stage financing and support schemes for young entrepreneurs, including incubators and accelerators
 Reduce investment barriers to promote access to foreign capital for entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurial culture:
 Introduce entrepreneurship as a specialised stream in higher education and schools
 Engage industry in the development and delivery of tech, digital and management-focused training
 Protect young entrepreneurs’ intellectual property with targeted provisions to encourage innovation and collaboration with larger organisations and investors
Digital business environment:
 Champion a G20 entrepreneur visa and promote the development of support networks for newly arrived entrepreneurs in G20 host countries
 Establish clear guidelines on data privacy and security, including usage, data rights and quality
Digital skills and entrepreneurial education:
 Teach entrepreneurship in schools from elementary through to final years of high school and prioritize STEM education, particularly for female students
 Promote youth entrepreneurship mentoring and coaching programs within industry and entrepreneurship networks

Digital knowledge base and ICT market:
 Foster multi-stakeholder digital clusters and networks, including those with a sectoral or city-level focus, along with coaching and mentoring schemes
 Support university-entrepreneur collaboration, including through funding incentives for universities