Posted December 05, 2017 | Electronics, Technology Industry | No Comments »

Does Brexit mean Texit?

Recently industry leaders from many of the key technology companies in the UK gathered to debate this topic “Does Brexit mean Texit?”

It is fair to say that this is certainly a hot topic in the industry at the moment, caused by the uncertainty of not actually knowing what Brexit will mean for our technology industry. The threats seem quite clear: reduction of international or foreign investment into the industry (at least until the picture is more certain), lower availability of the people needed to staff our technology firms, reduced opportunity for collaboration between our university R&D functions and European counterparts, to name a handful of the threats highlighted.

But wait! Education, funding and talent pipeline have long been challenges for the UK tech industry. What has people most perplexed is that Brexit makes the landscape even harder just at the point that many feel the UK industry was getting on top of, or at least making ground in all three of these areas.

What concerned me more than these issues was the seeming reluctance to think beyond Europe and to think beyond some of the short term pain. There are numerous issues faced by the tech industry that it can continue to resolve whilst Brexit unravels, gender imbalance would be a clear obvious one. The UK has a terribly low representation of women in the industry compared to many other countries. Education would be another, as we have far too few home grown students being attracted into Electronic Engineering. Expanding our horizons further afield may be the biggest opportunity open to our industry in the UK.

The tech industry is a global industry and we in the UK often voice concerns that we are outplayed by others. Look at Israel, a country that has forged strong links with Silicon Valley in the US and been very tactical about the technology it invests into. Or South Korea that has an infinitely higher level of investment into its Technology Industry than the UK does, even though South Korea and the UK are similar sized countries.

In truth businesses are and will just get on with what they have to do to react to the issues they face, whether that is Brexit or some other global or local issue, simply because they have to in order to survive. Business is often about survival of the most adaptable and I have hopes that the brilliant tech companies and tech community in Britain can and will adapt.

This industry matters! There are over 1 million people employed in the Electronic Engineering industries in the UK throughout over 45,000 companies. These jobs and companies are high value and pay good tax to the UK government.

It is not all bad though. The weak pound has helped companies that are exporting to look more attractive and it has encouraged companies to take a more global view rather than just focus on Europe as a market, and let’s face it the tech industry really is a global industry. Some argue that membership of the EU has stunted UK tech industry’s growth, as rules on State Aid to industry limit government intervention, whereas this is not the case in other parts of the world. Whilst there is uncertainty relating to one market there are plenty of other opportunities to hunt for. Some are quick to point out that we don’t have to give up Europe to work with the world and that doing both is still possible, even that taking a more global outlook could be positive for the long term future of the tech industry in the UK.

Regardless of Brexit the industry still faces challenges of overcoming issues around education, funding and talent pool. The real challenge is working out how to resolve these and become even more competitive in the global market. TechWorks stated mission is to “strengthen the UK’s Deep Tech capabilities as a global leader of future technologies”. The route to this has definitely become more challenging with Brexit but I have high hopes that the brilliant minds and businesses we have growing here in the UK can look beyond Brexit to thrive and prosper. I sincerely hope that Brexit does not mean Texit rather it is forcing the opportunity to reinvent and rethink our industry and to truly position our tech industry as a global player.

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