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UK Targets Pension Funds to Keep Startup Funding Boom Going

·2-min read

(Bloomberg) -- The UK is planning to update its digital strategy for the first time since 2017, in a bid to attract tech talent to the country, and encourage pension funds to invest in tech startups.

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Post-Brexit, the British government wants to “capitalize on the freedoms we now have to set our own rules and regulations,” said Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, at the opening of London Tech Week.

The new strategy comes at a time when tech startups are cutting jobs after facing pressure to focus on profits rather than growth. Getir, Gorillas, and Klarna, some of the largest European startups with a significant presence in London, are cutting jobs, while UK rapid grocery startup Zapp is also planning cuts of up to 10% of staff.

The UK will also publish a semiconductor strategy and will work with pension funds to get them to invest in tech startups before the firms make their initial public offering, part of a digital strategy to “produce more for less and tame inflationary demons,” Chris Philp, Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, said at the event.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announced in October the UK would look into allowing pension funds to allocate more to early-stage tech companies. UK pension funds are currently hamstrung in investing into risker investments, unlike their US counterparts.

The UK government “will do everything to enable” the sector’s success in a bid to avoid a low growth, high inflation environment, Philp said. The UK tech sector has grown three times faster than any other area of the economy since 2015, he added.

The digital strategy, launched also has six visa routes to help highly-skilled people travel to the UK to join tech businesses.

“The Home Office is promising a three week turnaround in those visa applications,” Philp said.

(Updates with additional context throughout.)

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