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‘Levelling up’ won’t deliver for Northern Tech for years

Harvey Nash Group explain that the budget needs to do more than ‘level up’ if the North’s tech sector is to flourish

Almost two thirds (65%) of tech professionals don’t expect the anticipated Budget announcement to ‘level up’ the Northern economy, bringing investment and growth in line with London and the South East, to have any significant impact on the ground for at least 3-4 years, with a third (34%) stating that it could take over five years for any extra investment to start making a difference.

At the same time, tech professionals are sceptical about the positive impact of HS2, which was given the green light last month, amidst concerns from an official review that costs could reach over £100bn . Only half believe that the Northern tech sector will benefit from infrastructure spending projects such as HS2. Instead, over half of tech professionals say it’s just as important that the government focuses on locally targeted investments. In fact, 84% of tech professionals stated that it’s important or very important that region specific tax cuts/incentives are offered to tech companies operating in the North.

The research undertaken by global technology recruiter, Harvey Nash in the lead up to tomorrow’s Budget also found that over two thirds (72%) of tech professionals believe that diverting the huge investment in HS2 towards tech specific projects like delivering high speed broadband to the Northern region or increasing digital skills across the region will have a greater influence/impact on the tech sector.

Bev White, CEO of Harvey Nash Group, said:
“The anticipated announcement in tomorrow’s Budget that the North will receive additional investment (even if full details follow at a later date) is a positive thing for the region, and much better than no investment at all. But our research shows that, alongside major infrastructure investments, we need to ensure there is a targeted approach focused around the Tech Hubs in the region. This will help support innovative start-ups and scale-ups through the next stage of their growth, driving economic activity and helping the region achieve its full potential.”

HS2 won’t improve access to tech skills
Recruiting tech talent in the North has become increasingly difficult over the last decade. In fact, The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, the largest IT leadership survey in the world, revealed recently that despite Manchester (2nd) and Leeds (7th) featuring in the top ten best UK cities for digital technology in June 2019 , all are reporting major tech skills shortfalls.

This shortfall in tech talent in the North is having a negative impact on the sector, with the Harvey Nash Survey finding that the vast majority of tech professionals (85%) feel the region is being held back as a result of a lack of talent. At the same time, almost six in ten (59%) don’t believe HS2 will improve access to skills in the North.

What can be done to improve tech skills?
Tech Professionals surveyed by Harvey Nash also highlighted three main areas that need to be focused on to make the North a more attractive option for skilled tech professionals:
1. Improve transport infrastructure between cities (69%)
2. Provide more government investment to promote the North as a Tech Hub (65%)
3. Provide focused investment to develop homegrown tech talent around key skill shortage areas such as Big Data/Analytics, Cybersecurity etc. (56%)

Bev White, CEO of Harvey Nash Group, concluded:
“HS2 will undoubtedly help businesses that are already working together to be more effective and efficient in the future. The greater connectivity it creates will be good for the North. But in parallel with this huge investment, we also need to promote the North as a centre of tech excellence in its own right so as to attract more skilled professionals to the region.

At the same time, increasing the focus on developing tech skills locally will help the Northern economy become stronger and grow in a more sustainable way.”