90% of UK tech firms intend global expansion

Many UK technology firms are planning forays into overseas markets with the intention of hiring the best international talent, according to research from Velocity Global, the leading provider of global business expansion solutions.

The findings show that 42% of British tech businesses say their expansion plans are being driven by a desire to recruit the best global tech talent, with Europe (37%) and Asia (36%) seen as the most promising destinations to bring in new skills.

Just 11% view North America as a strong potential market for the right recruits, with 6% pointing to the Middle East, according to the research.

China, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Germany, France and Spain were among those named as markets considered the most promising to capitalise on pools of talented workers outside of the UK.

Just over half (52%) of the businesses surveyed are planning to expand overseas to grow their customer base, with 43% saying their moves into new markets are being driven by the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Velocity Global surveyed senior decision-makers from 500 UK tech companies of varying sizes for The State of Global Expansion 2019 report, revealing a sector of ambitious businesses looking to uncover growth in foreign markets.

Some 90% of UK tech firms are looking to expand their operations into new countries, with many planning to do so in the near future. Just under half (43%) of the companies surveyed operate in the UK only, but this is expected to fall to just 13% by the end of 2019.

Ben Wright, CEO of Velocity Global, said: “The survey reveals an ambitious UK tech sector which has the confidence to pursue growth internationally, with all the benefits that brings.

“Many of them are expanding overseas not just to expand their customer bases or to address the issue of the UK leaving the EU, but also because they want to ensure they have a presence in fast-growing markets with the best people.

“We know that the UK is among the best places in the world to set up a tech business but there is no escaping the issue of skills shortages. It appears businesses are thinking creatively, seeking to combine growth in new markets with the opportunity to hire their brightest talent.”

Although the research revealed confidence and ambition among UK tech businesses, it also uncovered a cautious outlook among some firms in the sector.

When asked about global expansion, 39% cited managing employee immigration as a major challenge, ahead of recruitment (36%), managing unfamiliar payroll processes (26%), communicating with clients over long distances (23%) and a lack of government support (21%).

Meanwhile, of the 10% of tech businesses that said they were not planning to expand, more than half (52%) said seeking to expand globally is too risky.

Ben Wright added: “It’s understandable that some businesses continue to have reservations about taking those first steps into unfamiliar overseas markets. Yet more often than not, the myriad opportunities outweigh the risks. And with the right advice and an expert partner on hand to simplify processes, it can be hugely rewarding and the route to future growth.”