26/07/2013 10:20 BST | Updated 24/09/2013 06:12 BST

A New Tech Britain


A report published by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research this week has shown that our digital economy is far healthier than official statistics would have us believe. While London has traditionally been the focus for the industry, this report has shown that the tech sector is thriving across the country - there are 270,000 tech businesses throughout the UK, compared to just 51,500 in London.

This is something I and others have known for some time - for the sector to be a national success, it needs to be more than just London-centric; indeed, WANdisco is co-headquartered in Silicon Valley and Sheffield.

Not only are tech companies a British economic strength (the UK generated over $59bn worth of high-tech exports in 2010), but digital companies' revenues grow faster and employ more people than non-digital ones - 11% of Brits now work in the digital sector.

The sector therefore is important to our economic recovery, and by leading in this field, Britain can shape what the future technology landscape will look like.

Britain once led the world in technological innovation. Our economy grew rich because we were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. Steam power, textile manufacturing, the railways - all these innovations of the early 19th Century put Britain in a different technological class to the rest of the world and swelled our coffers. Other nations had to imitate us to keep up.

China and India on the other hand, turned their backs on the technological changes that were taking place at that time and their economies suffered - a lesson in the dangers of not keeping up to speed with the evolving tech world. Since then, they have realised the importance of technology and invested heavily in it; they have become two of the world-leaders in this field and we now look to emulate their success.

I firmly believe that Britain can get back to the days of being the leading light in the world of technology. It is not enough to accept that the BRIC economies will expand, that China will soon surpass the US as the world's largest economy and that Silicon Valley will remain the byword for technological innovation. To do so would be to admit defeat.

Our record in technology businesses is outstanding. Nomad Digital, the leading global wireless provider for transportation, and Equal Experts, a fast-growing software company, are two businesses to come out of the UK in the last couple of years that have led the way in their field. Let's feed off the self-confidence that this should inspire and think bigger than Silicon Valley, or a roundabout in East London: why can't all of Britain become a centre of technological excellence?

I am constantly reminded of the Industrial Revolution when I am in my Sheffield office because of ties that the city shares with such an exciting age of innovation, the city that became synonymous with steel. While it's great that policymakers are finally understanding that the tech sector is bigger than an area of East London, we now need to do our best to support our young entrepreneurs and encourage the next generation of start-ups to be the Brunels of their age, to learn from our innovative predecessors and apply those lessons to a modern business world.