The tech sector in 2020: a resilient performance – but what’s next?

Jass Sarai Leader of Industry for Technology, Media and Telecommunications, PwC United Kingdom November 2020

2020 has been a surreal experience. We’ve all had to grapple with a worldwide pandemic alongside geopolitical uncertainties such as Brexit, the US elections and climate change. No-one would disagree that we’re in uncharted territory.

In the midst of this turbulence, the UK technology industry has demonstrated an impressive degree of resilience, stepping up to meet society's demands and providing a robust response to the many and varied issues that governments, business and individuals have encountered and continue to wrestle with.  While other industries have suffered from the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the technology sector has remained a key enabler of the UK economy while driving transformation and innovation across other sectors.

Investors have also recognised the strengths and further potential of the sector. At a time when many other industries are tightening their belts and struggling to attract capital, we’ve continued to see a healthy level of deal and investment activity. It is quickly developing a reputation  as a “safe haven”. As we navigate the pandemic and society starts to work, live and play in a different way, we’ve seen several subsectors of tech demonstrate growth – including cloud, cyber security, video conferencing, and increased use of wearables.

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Showing our support for innovation

Against this positive industry background, we're, once again, proud and delighted to be the main sponsor of the UK tech awards, a celebration we’ve been at the heart of throughout their 21-year history. The awards aim to reward the achievements of companies in the sector and raise the profile of the leaders in the UK tech community – and they deliver consistently on both counts.

When I joined the voting panel earlier this year to review the hundreds of nominations, I was uplifted by the high calibre of submissions across all categories. Almost 50% of the shortlisted companies were from regions outside of London, underlining the thriving nature of the UK’s tech industry landscape across the country. It’s energising to be part of such a vibrant and diverse industry – especially in a year when companies living and breathing “tech for good” really came to the fore, and when so many players in the sector succeeded in increasing the productivity of their people. 

UK Tech Awards 2020

We’ve just announced this year’s highly-deserving winners. They include world-leading innovators like TransferWise as “Tech Growth Business of the Year” and Oxford Nanopore Technologies for “Tech Innovation of the Year”. Read about all the winners and nominees.

We also introduced a new category, “Tech Investor of the Year”, to recognise investors who’ve demonstrated a long-term commitment to the UK tech sector and had a real impact on the tech ecosystem, by helping companies scale up, grow their business and plan a better future. With investment activity at record highs – UK tech deal value surged to more than £36bn in Q3 2020, according to Dealogic – this year was a very timely moment to launch this important award. It was won by Hg.

Looking forward to 2021…

What shines through is that tech innovation and investment are alive and thriving in the UK. So, as we approach the end of a year like no other, what’s the outlook for the UK tech sector in 2021? Overall, we foresee a continuation of the positive trajectory seen in 2020: while the pandemic has been hugely disruptive, it hasn’t changed the fundamental fact that the potential for breakthrough technologies and innovation continues to abound. These are also burgeoning opportunities for convergence, as tech becomes an increasingly integral part of every industry. 

Clearly, challenges remain – including the war for talent, the shifting geopolitical landscape and rising regulatory scrutiny, to name but a few. All of these issues play to the importance of building a strong reputation and reinforcing trust by having a positive impact on society. For UK tech companies looking to thrive and grow as we move through and beyond the pandemic, the bottom line is to stay critical, resilient, and essential. I think those should be the watchwords for the coming year.

My message to tech business leaders is to continue to do what you do best - continue to disrupt and innovate, continue to contribute to the wider good of the society and continue to develop our tech leaders of tomorrow.  

Watch out for our follow-up series of insights focused on key areas tech business leaders should consider in order to stay ahead of the game. If you have any questions or would like to understand more about how we can help you steer through your growth journey, please contact me.

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Jass Sarai

Jass Sarai

Leader of Industry for Technology, Media and Telecommunications, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7753 928448

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