London attracted more international tech workers than any other city in Europe last year, according to new data from LinkedIn.
The research, compiled on behalf of the Mayor of London’s promotional agency, will go some way to allay fears that Brexit is deterring highly skilled staff from moving to the UK.
London was both the most popular city for intra-European and non-European migrants to the EU for the second year running, the data reveals. Berlin was named the second most popular destination for European migrant workers, while Paris drew the second highest number of tech workers from outside Europe.
While LinkedIn has not yet released raw data on the number of workers moving to London, statistics published by Stack Overflow in December suggest the total number of software developers in the city rose from 303,000 to 357,000 over the last year.
Many tech executives have expressed concern about their ability to hire staff amid continued Brexit uncertainty. Claire Cockerton, the former chief executive of startup hub Plexal, warned in 2017 that it was harder for companies to hire European CEOs in light of the referendum result. “CEOs won’t uproot their family and come to London without a sense of assurance about the future for themselves and their families here,” she told NS Tech.
Juan Bossicard, the president of the Microsoft Innovation Center’s Executive Committee, claimed in December that 3,500 tech jobs had already moved from London to Brussels, as the New Statesman reported. “We expect far more to come after Brexit officially happens,” he added.
“It would be unreasonable to say that Brexit has had no impact, but up until now it’s been largely psychological,” Zihao Xu, an investment manager at Octopus Ventures, told NS Tech. “For now, rather than people saying we’re not going to London, it’s a case of; we’ll wait and see. But we’ve not had our portfolio companies make a lot of noise about not being able to get talent.”
London has managed to maintain its title of tech funding capital of Europe since the referendum, but economists have predicted that Brexit will hit job growth in the tech sector harder than any other. When researchers compared growth rates based on continued membership of the single market and customs unions with a departure from the latter but not the former, employment was forecast to be 1.3 per cent lower by 2030.
However, Apple and Google have both approved plans to open new headquarters in London in the coming years. Apple’s HQ in Battersea will house 1,400 staff, while Google’s Kings Cross base will provide space for 4,500.
“Clearly talent is the defining challenge of scaling a business,” Ben Brabyn, the head of Level39, told NS Tech. “What London has is a real density of talented people. What I tend to hear is making sure that businesses continue to enjoy access to elite academic institutions in the UK is the most important thing. Of course, many of the people in those institutions are not from the UK originally.”
“Above all innovators are resilient,” Brabyn added. “That’s true wherever they come from. The second thing you’ve got to be is opportunistic. In a way, change favours the innovator independent of what the change is. Brexit is a huge challenge to the UK and our habits and institutions. The tech sector will help us.”