London demand for tech skills threatens new North-South divide

A new analysis of the UK’s jobs market by Accenture claims that despite growing opportunities in other cities, London has increasingly greater demand for talent in emerging technologies than ten other UK cities combined. According to the report,  there are currently 422,000 UK-based professionals with skills in emerging technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, extended reality and quantum computing.

The Accenture UK Tech Talent Tracker analysed LinkedIn’s Professional Network data and found that that 37 percent of UK professionals (155,000) cite their current location as London. This is predicted to grow as a further 63,000 jobs in emerging technologies are being advertised in the capital.

This is higher than the combined number of jobs in emerging tech available in ten other UK cities including Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and Liverpool. With tech salaries on average 10 percent higher than other roles, the concentration of technology professionals in London threatens to further widen the wealth and skills gap between the South East and the rest of the country.

Zahra Bahrololoumi, head of Accenture Technology in the UK & Ireland, argues that this does not have to be the case: “London is currently the default choice for many, but we want to prove that the capital is far from the only option. Availability of talent is one of the biggest factors in establishing a successful technology business. We’ve found that there’s so much of this talent in other cities, but it’s being overlooked. Once businesses realise the potential and bring more opportunities to people in other cities, we can create a tech economy that benefits the entire country, rather than just London.”

Accenture’s research claims that, outside of London, both Manchester and Bristol have an existing supply of talent that’s ready to service five emerging technologies: data analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, extended reality and quantum computing. Most of these technologies are identified in the Accenture Technology Vision 2019 as being poised to deliver the next wave of business growth and innovation as enterprises head into a “post-digital era,” a world in which becoming digital itself is no longer a competitive advantage.

Certain regions are also emerging as specialist technology hubs. Cambridge has the second largest pool of AI talent in the country, due to its strong collaboration between academics and entrepreneurs. Brighton is also establishing itself as a creative centre, with 13 percent of its technology professionals working on extended reality. Edinburgh, Birmingham and Newcastle all have significant pools of data analytics professionals.

“We see these emerging technologies as being crucial for the future of British business,” continued Bahrololoumi. “As we head towards a post-digital era, having the ability to combine these technologies will create a step-change in what can be achieved, enabling businesses to create people-first experiences that truly differentiate them. Companies will need to tap into a range of different talents and having professionals with varied skills at their fingertips makes these cities stand out.”

Chris Gray, managing director Accenture North West commented: “The UK’s technology sector is currently growing one-and-a-half times faster than other industries, so there’s a huge opportunity to close the divide. We have ourselves set up many regional hubs, with Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh amongst the biggest. These findings should be a signal for both tech professionals and companies alike that there are exciting opportunities ahead.”