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Entrepreneurs Network finds foreign-born entrepreneurs are making a massive contribution to the UK


New report calls for visa reforms so that UK remains open for entrepreneurial talent and investors

Date of Publication:
16 July 2019

Entrepreneurs Network finds foreign-born entrepreneurs are making a massive contribution to the UK

16 July 2019

The Entrepreneurs Network, an independent think-tank, last week released an interesting new report looking at the major contribution foreign-born entrepreneurs are making to the UK economy. The report also calls on politicians to make a positive case for immigration and fix the visa system so as to open the UK to entrepreneurial talent.

You can read download the 36-page report here.

For the report, the Entrepreneurs Network analysed SyndicateRoom's Top 100 list of Britain's fastest growing companies. The analysis revealed:

  • 49% of the UK's fastest-growing startup companies have at least one immigrant co-founder.
  • 9 of the UK's 14 startup 'unicorns' (which are companies with a valuation of $1b or more) have at least one foreign-born co-founder.
  • The fast-growing immigrant founded companies of the Top 100 have attracted a combined £3.7bn in investment.

"Immigrant entrepreneurs play a vital role in driving the UK economy forward. By creating jobs, attracting foreign investment, and disrupting tired, old industries, immigrant founders make an important contribution to life in the UK", the report states.

The immigrant co-founders of the UK's fastest growing businesses come from 29 different countries and the Entrepreneurs Network found EU-born immigrant co-founders are slightly overrepresented on the Top 100 list. It notes: "38% of the UK's foreign-born population were born in another EU country, yet EU-born migrants make up 42% of the immigrant co-founders of the UK's fastest growing businesses."

The Entrepreneurs Network welcomes the fact that Britain is a top destination for entrepreneurial talent. Data from Tech Nation's 2019 report revealed that the UK employs 5% of all scale-up employees globally, ahead of Japan, France and Indonesia. Research from London and Partners found that London is Europe's top destination for European tech workers.

The report also considers immigration policy and says politicians should make preserving the UK's status as a top destination for entrepreneurial talent a key priority. To do so, the report calls on the Government to work to streamline the visa process and ensure there are clear paths open for entrepreneurial talent and investors in risk capital to come to the UK.

The Entrepreneurs Network recommends that the Government should reinstate the Tier 1 Post-Study Work Visa to allow international students to work in the UK up to two years after graduation before moving on to another visa.

According to the report, since the Post-Study Work Visa route was withdrawn the UK's global market share of international students has fallen from 12% in 2010 to 8% in 2016.

The Entrepreneurs Network also recommends that the Government should reform the Tier 1 Investor Visa by lowering the minimum qualifying investment threshold for investment in UK startups, scale-ups, and venture capital funds.

In conclusion, The Entrepreneurs Network says: "This report presents a clear picture of the massive impact in terms of jobs, growth, and innovation of the UK's immigrant population. The job is now for politicians to make the positive argument for immigration and fix the visa system to remain open to entrepreneurial talent."

In the foreword to the report, Conservative MP Jo Johnson MP said: "For Britain to remain at the economic top table, we need to embrace the gifted students and buzzing entrepreneurs who wish to contribute to our success. It is senseless, therefore, to deny graduate entrepreneurs the chance to set up their business and invest their talents and energy in the country where they studied.

"While successive governments have acknowledged public concern about levels of immigration, they have failed to make the positive, evidence-based case for embracing foreign-born talent."

Johnson added: "The wholesale removal in 2012 of the right of non-EEA students to live and work in the UK for 2 years after completing their studies was in retrospect a mistake. This regulation has had a detrimental effect on the UK’s competitiveness in the global higher education market and has a particularly damaging effect on graduate entrepreneurs."