To end the year of 2018, we invited Kane Fulton, Entrepreneur Engagement Manager, Yorkshire, Tech Nation, to share his insight into the growth of tech in the UK – and his insight for 2019.
What do you think is most exciting about tech innovations in the UK at the moment?
Being from God’s Own County, I’m naturally interested in whippets, Yorkshire pudding wraps, and – owed to our industrial heritage – advanced manufacturing. We’re obviously not the only ones in the country doing the latter, but there’s some great innovation going on up North at places like the AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) found at Rotherham’s Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP). McLaren, Rolls Royce and Boeing are just some big names collaborating there.
Advanced manufacturing interests me because it involves such a diverse set of technologies – everything from big data analytics and AI – to machine learning, robotics, IoT and 3D printing. Outside of that? Checking out the startups on our recently launched fintech programme reminded me of just how much expertise we have in fintech – not just in London – but across the UK.
What region has really stood out for you in the Tech Nation Tour of 2018?
The tour was a fascinating experience for me due to the diversity of the 11 regions and communities we visited. We held events in all kinds of venues – from restored churches to science parks and 22-story office blocks – each of which were attended by tech workers with their own distinct set of concerns, aspirations and specialities.
And I’m not just saying this because OggaDoon is based there, but Bristol was a genuine highlight of the tour. Engine Shed’s fabulous decor aside, the event also featured my standout exhibitor in local startup Ultrahaptics. I’m a bit of an AR and VR nerd, so I let out a little wheeze of excitement during my demo of the company’s fingertip-tingling ultrasound tech.
Prior to our tour event that evening I’d attended a showcase hosted by Tech South West – a regional ‘joining-the-dots’-style organisation that reminds me of Tech North, my prior organisation that was rebranded to Tech Nation (along with Tech City) back in April. The event saw a rapid-fire presentation that gave me a sense of the passion and hard work being done by various stakeholders in the region. It made for an interesting Twitter thread.
Can you give us an example of an unusual business/approach to business?
I know a dating app startup that handed out bananas with tags on them in what could possibly be described as a leftfield marketing tactic. They stored a bunch of them (several hundred, actually) in wheelie bins that were carted around in a van. JigTalk, if you’re reading this, never change.
What do you think the rest of the world underestimates about the tech industry here in the UK?
If I was on the outside looking in, there’s a good chance that I would assume that all the good stuff in tech is being done in London. There’s a few different reasons for that, but it’s certainly not the case.
London is clearly a huge asset and only beaten by Silicon Valley as the most globally connected tech ecosystem in the world. However, as Tech Nation Report 2018 and Tech Nation on Tour uncovered, the UK’s tech muscle also comes from its various ‘digital suburbs’ – hotspots with high productivity that include places like Bristol, Newbury, and York.
Our mission at Tech Nation is to make the UK the best place for entrepreneurs to start, grow and scale a digital tech businesses. As we connect founders from big cities to those in smaller suburbs, while telling stories to shine a light on startups across the country, we’ll hopefully change perceptions over time.
(The dreaded Brexit question!) How do you think Brexit will affect the tech industry in the UK?
It’s hard to say. The uncertainty around Brexit has every industry on tenterhooks, tech included. What I will say is that Tech Nation offers a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for Digital Technology, so if there are any foreign nationals reading this who are working in UK tech and are concerned about their position, take a look.