The Value of UK Digital Tech Exports

February 24, 2021

The global reach of British technology is well-established. But the drastic changes 2020 brought have pushed UK tech leaders to change their approach to trade, digital commerce and connectivity. In the new normal, they need a growth outlook that’s truly international.

A recent report by Tech Nation ranked the best countries to do business with for digital tech manufacturers and service providers. It found the UK was the fifth greatest exporter of digital tech services in the world, with a £23.3bn turnover in 2019 – just behind India, the US, China and Germany. 

The reason the UK is able to punch above its weight like this? It’s home to 7,497 high-growth exporting tech companies, many of which have room to grow their export business a lot further.

Currently, UK digital tech services export much more than they import, with a 55% trade surplus in 2019. This invites favourable comparisons with the average trade surplus of 48% among the top 57 countries worldwide. 

Britain’s digital tech trade surplus expanded by 68% (from £8.7bn to £12.8bn) between 2015 and 2019, now only beaten by the insurance (£16.9bn) and financial services (£43.4bn) sectors.

The world’s largest importer of global digital tech services was the US, importing £34bn worth of services in 2019, with Germany hot on its heels with £33bn and China third with £21bn. 

In terms of growth in imports of tech services, India, Japan, and Brazil are leading the pack, with growth of 29%, 24% and 17% respectively from 2018 to 2019.

The UK offers a great environment for scaling tech businesses, with a proportionally large number of such businesses well-established here providing domestic tech services. The UK is also top in Europe and third in the world for its number of tech unicorns. 

These numbers lead to an exciting conclusion: UK business founders, industry leaders and the government should be getting ready to double tech exports by 2025. If we can double exports post-COVID and post-Brexit, Britain’s tech industry could be pumping an extra £23bn a year into the economy by 2025 and push Britain even further up the ranks as one of the world’s top exporters of tech.