Record London investments show scale of UK divide

Around 80 percent of the UK's technology venture capital funding is heading directly to the capital.

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    London has proven a more attractive investment target than other UK tech hubs [Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg]
    London has proven a more attractive investment target than other UK tech hubs [Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg]

    Technology startups in London attracted a record 2.56 billion pounds ($3.26 billion) of venture capital investment in 2019 through May 31, according to data published by London & Partners, the city's official lobbying arm.

    The figures also illustrate the dominance of the capital's appeal: despite cities like Cambridge, Bristol and Edinburgh all being home to top scientific universities and notable tech firms, London captured four fifths of Britain's total 3.17 billion pounds of technology VC funding for the year so far.

    The investment statistics were compiled by the data firm Pitchbook, and are to be published in full on Monday by London & Partners on the same morning Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to announce 153 million pounds of new funding for U.K. tech companies, with a particular focus on supporting businesses working in the field of quantum computing.

    "If we are going to maintain our position as a global leader, our challenge is how we develop British tech and make it even better," May is expected to say at an event in London on Monday.

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan suggested a more diverse industry might help. "As our city's tech ecosystem continues to grow, it's important that we encourage greater inclusivity and diversity across the tech sector," he said in an emailed statement Sunday.

    The optimism of May and Khan, supported by the record figures published to coincide with the start of London Tech Week, runs counter to concerns that uncertainty around Britain's exit from the European Union will damage the U.K.'s competitiveness as a technology hub.

    But it does little to address mounting concerns around the economic impact of the north-south divide in Britain. In December, an analysis by the think tank IPPR North showed that in the past decade, total public spending rose in the south of England by 3.2 billion pounds in real terms, but fell in the north by 6.3 billion pounds in the same period.

    The U.K. has seen its technology scene expand rapidly in recent years, with further growth expected. Facebook Inc., Snap Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google have all announced plans to increase hiring in the U.K., while Apple Inc. is leasing about 500,000 square-feet of office space at Battersea Power Station on the south bank of London's River Thames.

    SOURCE: Bloomberg