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Technology experts to get fast-track visas as the UK goes after Silicon Valley


World-class technology experts will be given fast-tracked visas under a push to attract the best international talent to the United Kingdom's digital sector, David Cameron will announce today.

The Prime Minister will also unveil a £15.5 million funding package to support innovative firms as he pledges to "make Britain the best place in the world in which to start and grow a business".

It comes as a report reveals the sector grew by 16 per cent between 2009 and 2012 in London and is behind 27 per cent of all job growth the city, employing around 582,000 people.

During a visit to Tech City, Britain's answer to Silicon Valley, in east London today, Mr Cameron will outline plans for the Government to open up the exceptional talent visa route, which is usually reserved for international leaders in science and the arts who have been approved by expert organisations such as the Royal Society or Arts Council, from April next year.

Funding of up to £12.5 million for research and development will be available to boost digital and computing technologies across the UK as well as least three new pots of cash worth £1 million each to encourage specialist clusters including in Wales and the North East.

Mr Cameron said: "We are competing in a global race and I am absolutely determined to make Britain the best place in the world in which to start and grow a business.

"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.

"The combination of the right policies, the right people and the right programmes, backed by a Government that listens and takes action, has led to some of the world's best entrepreneurs and their companies choosing the UK as their home.

"As well as backing the businesses of today, we are also backing the businesses of the future and in just three years we have seen London become a leading centre for innovation, helping to drive our economic recovery.

"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."

The Tech City Annual Report said it is now recognised as Europe's digital capital and between 2009 and 2012 tech companies in London increased 76% to 88,215.

Joanna Shields, Tech City chief executive and ambassador for digital industries, 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 start-ups and create a landscape favourable to digitally enabled firms to thrive and contribute long term to growth and jobs."