Positive outlook for South West Tech firms

February 3, 2020

Tech firms in the South West are predicting a strong year of growth in 2020, according to the findings of the annual Tech South West survey.

Tech organisations from Bath, Bournemouth,  Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset took part in the survey.

It revealed that almost two thirds (64.8%) of technology firms in the region expect their company workforce to increase in 2020.

And positivity is on the up, with 69.5% of organisations expecting to fare better in 2020 than in 2019. This marks a shift from the results 12 months ago, when only 50% believed 2019 would be a better year financially for their business than 2018.

But there are challenges, particularly around securing talent, with 87.9% of those who took the survey finding it hard to recruit the talent needed to maximise growth.

Most notably, availability of talent (35.8%) surpassed economic conditions (26%) as the biggest barrier to growth for the first time, suggesting that the growth across the region’s tech sector is not being matched by adaptations in the labour market. Lack of ‘homegrown’ talent is seen as the biggest reason for recruitment challenges.

Toby Parkins, chair of Tech South West and founder of Cornwall-based software firm HeadForwards, said: “Technology remains the fastest growing sector in the region and it’s encouraging to see our members more positive than ever before.

“The diversity of specialisms, be that healthtech, marine tech or agritech, robotics, software development or artificial intelligence, ensures a high level of robustness within the sector which is vital for on-going growth in relation to wider economic conditions. But it also means we need great people including a strong mix of specialists. The more we can work with our universities, colleges and schools to ensure the talent pipeline is delivering, the more we can recruit locally and ensure the region’s tech sector continues to thrive.”

When it comes to skills, companies cited the top three soft skills for organisational success as communication, creativity and the ability to collaborate or work well in a team. The top three technical skills were coding, data management and software development.

The survey also revealed some of the main skills lacking in tech businesses across the region were leadership, communication and experience of work.

BT are part of the Tech South West steering group and were a Supporting Partner of the recent Tech South West Awards.

Paul Coles, BT Group English Regions Director, said: “In general, tech businesses are confident about the future, but the big challenge is access to the right skills. It is clear that our focus now should be collectively solving the skills gap. It’s the key to greater productivity and future prosperity. At a very human level tech is going to be critical to solving some of our greatest societal challenges, so we must do all we can to nurture and support the right skills mix."

Anthony Story, on the Tech South West steering group and Director of Silicon South in Dorset added: “We are delighted that Bournemouth and Dorset companies have contributed to the study. Bournemouth has already been identified as one of the fastest growing tech startup economies in the UK.

“Like other parts of the South West, it shares in that demand for top quality talent. Happily this is fuelled by some optimism, both in general growth, but also a strong belief in the value of new innovations being introduced into a range of diverse markets.”

With over 11,000 technology companies in the region, Tech South West works with tech clusters, businesses and education establishments to celebrate, showcase and support the sector.