Nearly a third of ‘global talent visa’ applicants in Scotland are tech founders, research shows

A new report has shown that almost a third of people arriving in Scotland under a government ‘global talent’ visa scheme are tech founders.

According to research carried out by Tech Nation, 31% of people applying for the UK Government’s Global Talent visa – and moving to Scotland – are tech sector leaders, compared to 28% across the UK as a whole.

Since November 2018, the Global Talent Visa has received 1,975 applications and endorsed 920 visas from over 50 countries worldwide; the encouraging findings demonstrate that Scotland has proved to be a popular destination for tech founders – based on the perceived value of its digital technology ‘ecosystem’.

Demand for the visas has continued to rise, with a growth of 45% and 48% in the past two consecutive years. It is expected to rise in 2021 as, from January, applications will be open to ‘exceptional tech talent from the EU’. However, that will only mitigate the effect of Brexit, when freedom of movement comes to an end, a prospect mostly decried by business.

Global talent is distributed right across the UK, as 41% of endorsed applicants for the visa are based outside of London, working in the UK’s strong regional tech hubs.

In 2020, the Global Talent Visa has enabled 421 founders to set up businesses in the UK, up from 400 in 2019. Tech Nation found that 31% of people endorsed for the visa based in Scotland are a tech founder, compared to the national average of 28%.

AI & machine learning is one of the most popular sector destinations for Global Talent Visa holders, reflecting continued demand for tech skills in this area. Demand for AI skills in Scotland has increased by 112% over the past three years, while demand for Cyber skills has increased by 79% over the same time period. On the other hand, demand for finance skills in tech roles decreased in Scotland over the past three years, down by -9%.

The data shows that there has been a 200% increase in the volume of users in the UK searching online for terms explicitly related to ‘UK tech visas’ between April and September 2020 reflecting profound shifts in the labour market. This surge in interest to work in the UK’s digital tech sector is reflected globally too, with a 100% increase in users internationally searching for these terms in countries like the US and India.

Herman Komashko, Senior Software Engineer at Modulr, who is from Uzbekistan but now based in Edinburgh, said: “The United Kingdom is a dream come true for any entrepreneur and those in tech in particular. The ecosystem here has been nurtured by some of the greatest business minds of the past few generations to create an opportunity for everybody willing to go above and beyond. The location and economical capabilities of this relatively small country are ground-breaking and we don’t have enough gratitude for all the blessings that we have here.”

“I will never take for granted what the UK has given me and hopefully will give to my children. While the business ecosystem is very appealing, feeling safe and respected was the number one thing that made me come to the UK.”

The full Tech Nation Visa Report 2020 can be found here: https://technation.io/tech-nation-visa-report-2020/