Buoyant South West tech sector expects strong 2021

Tech companies across the South West are expecting a positive and profitable 2021, according to a new survey.

Some 80% are confident or very confident about their prospects in 2021, with 92% planning to up their recruitment in the next twelve months.

The survey, carried out by Tech South West, also found 81% were positive about their economic fortunes in the last year.

Dan Pritchard, co-founder of Tech South West, said: “These findings show the resilience of the sector, the importance of technology across all aspects of the economy and its ability to help power the economic bounceback across the region.

“The pandemic of course has been disruptive, causing huge uncertainty and financial difficulty, but the survey reveals that most tech organisations have adapted, continue to perform well and are set for growth in 2021.”

The survey was completed by a range of organisations operating in the sector including tech companies, tech hubs, entrepreneurs, education organisations and professional service providers in Bath, Bristol, Cornwall. Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Dan added: “At Tech South West, we have long recognised the importance of the sector in supporting the regional economy, attracting inward investment and boosting opportunities for people with well-paid roles and career pathways. Against the backdrop of the post-Covid recovery, these strengths are likely to be vital in the coming months and years.”

As the fastest growing sector in the South West, the tech sector generates over £2.5bn per year in the region and employs more than 75,000 people. Salaries in the South West tech sector are around 30% above the regional average. With youth unemployment having doubled in the South West since the pandemic began, and the national economy having experienced its biggest downturn for 300 years, the continued growth of the tech sector will be essential for the economic recovery of the South West.

Toby Parkins, Chair of Tech South West and Director of Cornwall-based software company Headforwards, said: “The findings of this survey are significant not just to those working in tech, but to anyone interested in the economic prosperity of the South West. it is reassuring to see the sector continue to grow, recruit and be a source of groundbreaking innovation. From marine tech and healthtech, to climate science and robotics, it is no exaggeration to say the tech sector is a critical component to the future prosperity of the region.”

The survey revealed the most anticipated tech trends of 2021, with online collaboration, AI, and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) topping the list. Tech South West will be exploring the rapidly growing VR/AR industries further at the March Tech Gathering, a free-to-attend digital event.

Andy Doyle, co-founder of Totnes-based digital fan engagement platform Filmily, said: “This survey shows that the South West is particularly confident and resourceful in terms of how we are going to grow again after lockdown. The general feeling of growth in 2021, along with increased looking for funding shows the tech sector in the region is blossoming.

“Filmily is looking to grow the technical team in Totnes during 2021, and have secured funding from the US. Our technical operations will be managed and predominantly run from Devon, but in this new world, clients and individual team members can be anywhere. Collaboration is critical going forwards.”

The survey also shed light on the main challenges facing the sector in the post-Covid landscape.

Although financial concerns rank highly, with access to finance the second biggest barrier, and economic conditions a close third, availability of talent stands out as the greatest challenge facing the sector.

Lindsay Lucas, managing director of Exeter-based data specialists Software Solved, said: “The survey reveals many positives about the region’s tech sector, but also highlights a big challenge around recruitment and access to talent.

“Supporting young people who are hungry to learn and progress provides a great opportunity for tech businesses. It is an area we actively encourage for our own business and is one we are keen to encourage others to adopt too. The Tech South West STEMM programme provides a great opportunity to do this and help join the dots between young people and businesses.”

Toby Parkins, chair of Tech South West, added: “With over 90% of respondents seeking to grow their teams in 2021, the tech talent pipeline in the South West will be key for supporting the growth of the tech sector and the regional economy more broadly.”

To learn more about the Tech South West STEMM programme, go to https://www.techsouthwest.co.uk/stemm