Tech Nation: NI raised £100m VC funding in 2019 and is home to 'tech unicorn'

  • Northern Ireland’s tech community secured £100m venture capital (VC) funding in 2019, according to the latest annual Tech Nation report.

    It also states that £3m has been invested in artificial intelligence (AI) in NI and £18m has been invested in overall emerging tech over the last four years.

    The region is home to First Derivatives, the country’s only digital tech unicorn – a term given to private start-up companies valued at over $1bn.

    The UK is home to 77 tech unicorns and is the world’s third highest producer of such companies, behind the US and China. Eight of these were created in 2019. 

    In addition, 95 UK companies were valued at between $250-$800m in the UK in 2019 – the most ever on record – which is a 27% increase from 2018.

    To date these companies have raised £6.75bn and employ 17,475 people across the UK.

    As of 2019, the average salary for a tech worker in Belfast is £40,000.


    Belfast city centre

    Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said that NI’s tech sector is “working hard to maximise its growth by investing in digital skills, cyber security and research and development, as well as regional infrastructure such as gigabit speed broadband and 5G."

    RELATED: An overview of NI's digital transformation

    Tech Nation’s report on the digital sector within the wider UK

    The research by the tech growth platform also revealed that the UK digital sector's Gross Value Added (GVA) grew nearly six times faster than that of the rest of the UK economy in 2018 - contributing £149bn to the nation’s overall wealth.

    GVA is the measure of the value of goods and services produced by the sector.

    Digital tech employs 2.9m people in the UK, now accounting for 9% of the national workforce. It is up by 40% from 2017.

    Manchester is the fastest growing European tech city, with an increase in investment of £48m to £181m from 2018 to 2019.

    It also helped make up 25% of Europe’s top 20 highest investment tech cities in 2019, all of which are in the UK including London, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge.

    In 2019, 81.2% of investment into UK tech went to scaling firms, compared to 80% in 2018.

    A ‘scaleup business’ is defined as a company which has seen average annualised growth of at least 20% over three years with 10 or more employees at the start of the period.

    Fintech remains the UK’s largest tech investment sector with a 100% rise from 2018. 44% of Europe’s fintech unicorns and companies valued between $250m and $800m are based in the UK.

    RELATED: Belfast ranked third Fintech location of the future for 2019/20

    In 2019, for every £1 invested into new technologies in Europe, 35 pence was invested into UK companies. 

    • Artificial Intelligence

    o The UK is third in the world for the level of AI investment. From 2015 to 2019 UK AI companies raised £3.2bn of global AI investment. The US raised £32bn and China raised £12bn.

    o The UK is the only country of the top five AI nations to have demonstrated consistent positive year-on-year growth for the last five years.

    • Cybersecurity

    o The UK raised £7.8bn in cybersecurity investment from 2015 to 2019. The US and China continue to dominate with total investment of £17.5bn and £16.4bn during the same time frame.

    • Blockchain

    o The UK comes fourth in the world for blockchain investment at £8.9bn of investment for 2015 to 2019. It is third globally for blockchain deals, with 249 deals compared to the US at 1,212 and China at 268.

    • Healthtech 

    o £1.18bn was raised by UK healthtech companies in 2019 -  accounting for 61% of the total European market (£1.93bn).

    Investment in UK tech companies addressing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) has nearly doubled in the last year from £1.59bn investment to £3.06bn. UK SDG aligned companies have raised more over the last six years than those in any other European country. 

    RELATED: Belfast rated one of the best UK cities to work in for tech

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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