Digital Secretary, Jeremy Wright
The UK is a global centre for socially responsible technology innovation, according to new quantitative and qualitative analysis prepared by Tech Nation, the UK network for ambitious digital tech entrepreneurs.
‘Tech for social good’ companies were worth £2.3bn in 2018, with a turnover of £732m – larger than the amount generated by the manufacture of consumer electronics in the UK (£634m).
Nearly half (45%) of the 490 companies identified are at an early stage in their journey and have raised only seed funding. These young, dynamic businesses are making contributions in areas including edtech (10.3% of total companies), fintech (9.2%) and artificial intelligence (8%).
These companies have significant knock-on effects for the wider economy. Many for-profit businesses are successfully pursuing both financial and social returns, using sustainable models that create employment and economic growth, as well as an array of positive societal impacts. One of the most striking examples is DeepMind, the London-based artificial intelligence company bought by Google in 2014. Since the acquisition, founders Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman have been forthright about their ambitions to tackle some of the world’s thorniest social and political problems, from healthcare to climate change.
Other successful for-profit tech for good businesses include Bulb, a green, renewable electricity supplier; Sweatcoin, which encourages exercise by paying users according to the number of steps they take; and Elder, a service that helps people find and manage live-in care.
The report also emphasised the importance of social impact investors that value both social and financial return, such as Bethnal Green Ventures and Big Society Capital. To date, profit-seeking tech-for-good businesses in the UK have collectively raised £1.09bn in venture capital.
Tech Nation’s research arrives as the global spotlight is intensifying on the social impact of disruptive technologies, and as consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the ethical credentials of digital products and services. In the UK, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has partnered with the Social Tech Trust to kickstart a fund of up to £30m to provide access to finance and position the UK as a global leader in socially transformative tech. A further £1m will be available to incentivise organisations to use tech to help tackle loneliness and bring communities together.
Today the Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright will host firms in the sector at a roundtable at Downing Street. Successful British start-ups due to attend include crowdfunding platform BEAM, financial inclusion company GivingStreets and cancer support organisation Live Better With.
Speaking ahead of the roundtable event, Jeremy Wright, said: "I'm pleased to see the UK's 'tech for social good' sector is not only having a positive social impact but is also making a significant contribution to the economy.
“'We are working hard to support those in the field by improving charities' digital skills, boosting access to finance for social tech ventures and backing an awards scheme to celebrate up-and-coming entrepreneurs. I look forward to meeting some of the sector's leading minds today to discuss how we can make sure the UK is a global leader in this area.”
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