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UK is Europe’s ’innovation nation’

George Whitehead (pictured), Venture Partner Manager at Octopus Ventures, comments on the British Venture Capital Association’s Innovation Nation report…

The BVCA’s Innovation Nation report highlights some very positive UK figures, which speak to a number of important factors. The top line is that UK economic growth is the fastest in Europe. This alone is important, but for us at Octopus, the really interesting figures are those around innovation and high-growth business development. In 2014/2015, UK VCs completed 780 deals with a combined value of GBP2.5 billion, and in the same year the UK saw a record number of new businesses launched. We should be really proud of these figures and what they tell the world about the UK's role as European leader in start-ups, scale-ups and investment. 
This scale of investment in recent years has been well documented – for example, GP Bullhound's recent research highlighted that the UK is now the European home of the unicorn business, with 17 companies in the UK valued at USD1billion or more. This is as many as Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and France combined.  
Importantly, such investment figures are also playing an important role in attracting entrepreneurs from abroad with as many as one-in-seven UK businesses being set up by migrant entrepreneurs. A recent London and Partners report suggests London is now challenging even San Francisco for the number of developers that call the city their home. 

It’s easy to find examples of success in growth and innovation with UK businesses. Just think of the likes of Secret Escapes and Zoopla, disrupting established markets to become leaders of their respective sectors, not just across the UK but also in Europe. It is no doubt that their success is a combination of a great idea, exceptional talent and a supportive UK eco-system, of which education, funding, developer talent and a strong entrepreneurial culture are all facets. Half of the best universities in the world are in the UK.
More can still be done and now is not the time to rest on our laurels. The UK still faces a shortage of developer talent and restrictions around visas are infringing on innovative businesses’ ability to hire. Let's keep up the good work, but with an eye on how we can keep growing in the future.

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