Tech Nation programs to relaunch in autumn

The road to a British Silicon Valley may be reopening following an announcement by the Founder Forum Group.

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Founder Forum Group (FFG), which acquired Tech Nation in April, announced it is preparing for a September or October relaunch of Tech Nation programs.

While the details of Tech Nation’s reboot at the hands of FFG remain hazy, according to UKTN reporting, the Libra, Rising Stars, Net Zero X, and Future Fifty programs are all being considered for a relaunch.

This follows the shocking closure of Tech Nation in March after the government pulled vital funding for the startup growth network.

Tech Nation relaunch aims and ambitions

Since launching in 2011, Tech Nation had been financed via the government’s Digital Growth Grant. Now awarded to Barclays, it’s a £12.09m pot of money destined to aid the UK’s existing digital tech firms and scaling startups between 2023 and 2025.

But, in April this year, Barclays Eagle Labs launched a two-year programme of business support to drive growth across the UK tech sector. The Barclays program is to be funded by the government’s Digital Growth Grant, which previously had supported Tech Nation before its closure in March.

This next iteration of Tech Nation will be commercially run, but Founders Forum Group is yet to disclose the exact details of the business model.

Founders Forum Group will be vying with Barclays to provide startup and scaleup support, as FFG looks for sources of funding to support the new iteration of Tech Nation.

Moving forward, the priorities for the Tech Nation rebirth will be to secure sufficient funding to revitalise its programs and to continue to help diversify the tech sector in the UK.

What does the future of Tech Nation look like?

FFG is a global community of businesses that seeks to support entrepreneurs at every stage of growth and foster an innovative environment – the much-used phrase of ‘a UK Silicon Valley’ comes to mind. It’s known for hosting events and forums like its flagship conference, London Tech Week.

In a recent UKTN podcast interview, Founders Forum Group’s CEO, Carolyn Dawson, shared, “We’re working through the plans. I think fundamentally obviously the funding has been lost so we have to rebuild this”

“What we feel passionate about is that the programs continue, that the insights and research continue, and also that there is a national competition for early stage companies and that all of this is done across the UK,” emphasised Dawson.

Importantly, a priority for Dawson and FFG is that the Tech Nation programs are angled at engendering the right incentive structures to get startups to stay in the UK.

Startups have been cooling on the UK as an environment in which to launch, particularly following changes made to the R&D tax relief scheme that came into effect in April. The changes have made scaling manufacturing or labs in the UK less attractive.

According to a survey of 267 UK tech startups by lobby group Coadec, 84% were concerned they would have to look at offshoring more tech development due to the changes made to the R&D tax relief scheme.

Between the changes to R&D funding and the closure of Tech Nation, UK startups are now feeling a lack of government support. It’s this gap that the new Tech Nation programmes are designed to fill.

Dawson has stated that FFG will look to work with the government due to their close-knit relationship with founders. “They trust and share with us what they really need. Therefore, we are in a unique position to bridge boundaries with the government, inform them and help develop policies on what startups and entrepreneurs actually need.”

The road to a British Silicon Valley

The idea of a ‘British Silicon Valley’ has been continuously marketed by Jeremy Hunt, who recently outlined the Mansion House Compact plan for reformed pensions investment into UK startups.

The plan commits nine of the biggest defined contribution schemes to invest at least 5% of their funds into unlisted equities by 2030. The goal? To unlock up to £50 billion of investment into high-growth companies.

To date, home-grown pension funds have arguably been more risk averse, leaving a shortage of investment for startups. This effect becomes even more pointed when we analyse the difference of access to funding between startups and large AI tech companies.

Hunt also asked the British Business Bank to look at whether the government should play a bigger role in setting up investment vehicles.

Dawson has welcomed the policy announcement and stressed to UKTN that, “The UK has all the great ingredients, probably the best ingredients in the world, including access to Europe, access to money and talent.”

However, Dawson equally warned that, “The UK has got to make sure that it continues to stay on top, in terms of policies.”

As FFG continues to find its footing with Tech Nation, Dawson has stressed she wants to prioritise the internationalisation of UK startups.

FFG hosts a number of flagship events across the world, not just London Tech Week. It also hosts conferences in Singapore and New York, opening gateways to East Asia and Silicon Valley for those in its network.

As part of the plans for Tech Nation’s relaunch, Dawson noted they are “also looking at international growth and expansion so that we can do more to help founders think about international growth strategies.”

If things go according to plan, Tech Nation should come back revitalised later this year.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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