Call for talent visas in UK to boost technology sector

by Ray Clancy on March 10, 2014

If London wishes to remain Europe’s tech capital, the UK government should introduce exceptional talent visas in order to plug the skills gap in the tech and media sectors, it is claimed.

Plans by the government to restrict non-European Union migration could exacerbate the existing skills gap, with 45% of tech city businesses seeing the lack of skilled workers as the key challenge to London staying at the top of the tech league tables.

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Over 46% of new leases in London’s West End during 2013 were from the tech and media sector

According to Media and Technology IQ, the latest report by Colliers International, global real estate advisors, despite high costs for established and start up tech companies, London has retained its edge throughout the economic downturn against fierce and growing competition from Berlin and Dublin as well as ambitious Nordic cities and Central Eastern markets in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.

Over 46% of new leases in London’s West End during 2013 were from the tech and media sector. Although tech businesses are now becoming more driven by availability than the need to be in the most sought after areas.

‘Given the importance of the media and tech sectors to UK plc, it is astonishing that the government is not doing more to allow skilled migrants from outside the EU to come to this country,’ said Guy Grantham, head of offices research at Colliers International.

‘There is no doubt that enticing the likes of Facebook, Google and Cisco to Tech City has been transformative. But reality bites and Berlin, with Germany’s simplification of non-EU migration for skilled workers, lays down a challenge to expensive and space restrained London,’ he pointed out.

‘The stakes are high for the capital. Smaller startups become global tech players with sizeable tax revenues. We need innovative businesses in the UK and these businesses require world leading, skilled innovators,’ he added.

According to Craig Satchwell, head of EMEA offices at Colliers International, activity levels by media and technology companies around the globe have exploded recently and the sector is now the most important and prominent business area in the world, influencing every other sector.

‘It is essential that London can accommodate media and technology employment growth levels, set to rise by almost 20% by 2020. To achieve this we must deliver circa 4.5 million square feet of new office space needed to house the new headcount of 75,000 individuals, hot desking and virtual working space,’ he said.

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