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David Cameron relaxes visa restrictions for tech talent

New measures to stimulate growth of London's digital sector coincide with the third birthday of the government backed Tech City
  • @jjvincent

David Cameron will today announce £15.5 million of additional funding for technology start-ups in London as well as fast-tracked visas designed to attract international talent to the UK’s digital sector.

The prime minister will pledge to “make Britain the best place in the world in which to start and grow a business” during a visit to Tech City today. This government-backed initiative has attempted to replicate the success of America’s Silicon Valley, by stimulating the growth of technology companies based around Shoreditch.  

A report released today has revealed that the sector has grown by 16 per cent between 2009 and 2012 in London, and accounts 27 per cent of all job growth in the city, employing some 582,000 people.

Joanna Shields, Tech City’s chief executive and ambassador for digital industries, welcomed the new “Exceptional Talent” visa route, saying:  “People weren’t banging on my door, but every tech company that we talk to says that hiring is a problem.”

Shields also said: "In 2010, the government recognised the growth potential of the tech sector and, three years on, the results are significant. The economic impact generated by creative and innovative digital businesses is not only supporting our recovery, but, as today's new data shows, it has ensured our lead as one of the world's leading digital economies.

"Our challenge now is to build on these firm foundations to drive higher rates of startups and create a landscape favourable to digitally enabled firms to thrive and contribute long term to growth and jobs."

The prime minister will also announce new funding packages for the sector. £12.5m will be available for research and development across the UK, with three individual £1m packages aimed at encouraging specialist clusters in Wales and the north east.

Cameron said: "The world of business is changing rapidly and one of the most promising opportunities for new jobs and growth lies within a new wave of high growth, highly innovative digital businesses.

"This is why, as part of our plan to help Britain succeed, we established Tech City UK to support the creation of a technology cluster in east London and committed to help these businesses to become cornerstones of our economy.

"We've had real success. Today Tech City serves not only as an example of how a city can be transformed into an engine for growth and innovation, but it is also a blueprint for fostering growth that has been recognised globally.

"But this is not just about London. We are determined to build a rebalanced economy across the country and get behind the entrepreneurs imagining a new tomorrow in the dozens of technology clusters, accelerators and start-up incubators across Britain."

Additional reporting by agencies