How UK tech boomed in 2020: Annual Tech Nation report reveals all

Photo shows: Gymshark, one of the UK's most successful scaleups

Tech Nation, the UK’s most active scaleup accelerator, has today released its annual Tech Nation Report, its state-of-the-nation report on the UK tech sector.

In 2020, the UK tech scaleup ecosystem continued its strong growth. Valued at $585 billion, startups and scaleups more than doubled (120%) their collective value since 2017. In comparison, the next most valuable European scaleup ecosystem, Germany, was valued at $291 billion.

Driving UK tech into new heights in 2020 were 10 superstar scaleups, which between them secured 20% of total UK tech VC investment, at $3.5bn, three of them are located in our region: EV manufacturer Arrival, gym ware company Gymshark in Solihull and Bristol-based semiconductor company Graphcore.

In its 7th year, the report lifts the lid on tech in an extraordinary 2020, revealing how the sector has changed, who the top performers were through the year, and the challenges and opportunities the UK faces as it navigates out of the pandemic and leaving the EU.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “The UK is maintaining its lead as one of the world’s premier centres for tech of all kinds. While the real credit lies, as ever, with the engineers and designers toiling away at laptops across the country, I’m immensely proud to lead a government that is so comprehensively committed to supporting the sector. We’re continuing to invest in your success, and I hope that the winning combination of UK tech and this government will lead us to yet another record-breaking year in 2021.”

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “With record levels of investment secured and UK listings gaining momentum, this report shows Britain’s tech sector continues to go from strength to strength, solidifying our position as one of the world’s top tech hubs.

“We want to bring about a golden age of UK tech through a raft of supportive measures and funding to help businesses thrive. This will help fuel a booming tech sector – creating jobs and improving services so that we can build back better from the pandemic.”

Gerard Grech, founding chief executive, Tech Nation, comments: “This year has highlighted the UK tech sector’s enormous resilience and world-beating innovative spirit. In the face of a major global crisis, it has not only survived; in many areas, it has boomed. From EdTech to HealthTech, tech scaleups are at the centre of rebuilding the British economy and setting new standards worldwide.

“Now the focus turns to the future, as the UK pivots to a wider global role. Developing Britain’s AI-powered deep-tech is especially critical. Much of our future economy will be built on this new technology that leverages machine learning for faster innovation. Bold investment is needed in R&D to boost Britain’s new deep-tech companies and ensure our global competitiveness.”

Judith Hartley, CEO of British Patient Capital, said: “Tech Nation’s report reveals the most attractive sectors for venture capital investors in 2020, including transport tech, deep tech and the future of work. BPC’s portfolio includes several investee companies from these sectors, including Cazoo, Graphcore and Hopin, each of which has raised £100m plus during the past year. By including companies like these in its portfolio, BPC is fulfilling its mission of ‘enabling long-term investment in UK companies led by ambitious entrepreneurs who want to build successful, world-class businesses.

As Tech Nation’s report shows, non-UK investment funded the majority of UK tech in 2020. This creates a significant opportunity for British Patient Capital and for other UK institutional investors. There is an increasing pool of experienced UK venture and venture growth managers, who are backing some of the most exciting high-growth companies in the country. It is through these managers that UK institutional investors can capture the value that exceptional companies such as Cazoo, Graphcore and Hopin can create.”

The top ten scaleups:

Company HQ city 2020 funding ($m) Sector
Revolut London 580 Fintech
Octopus Energy London 577 Energy
Ki London 500 Insurtech
Arrival London & Bicester 400 Transportation
Karma Kitchen London 333 Real estate; food
Cazoo London 310 Transport tech
Gymshark Solihull 264 Fashion; ecommerce
Graphcore Bristol 222 Semiconductors


London 200 Marketing; enterprise software
Zenobe Energy London 198 Energy, transportation

Source: Tech Nation, 2021

Octopus Energy, Arrival, Cazoo, Gymshark, infobip, Gousto and Hopin were the seven unicorns to make it into the unicorn class of 2020, bringing the UK’s total unicorn count in 2020 to 80. An additional 6 unicorns have already been created so far in 2021, Blockchain, Kymab, PPRO, Touchlight Genetics, Starling Bank and Zego. Hopin, the online events platform which raised $150 million in 2020, has gone on to raise a further $400 million Series C round from US VC, Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst with a valuation of $5.65bn.

Fintech challenger, Revolut, and insurance platform, Ki, helped to cement the UK’s position globally for fintech and insurtech. Revolut raised $580 million over the course of 2020, while Ki raised $500 million in its bid to redefine the commercial insurance market.

Arrival, the London and Bicester-based electric vehicle startup, and green energy provider Octopus Energy, secured the biggest rounds for UK impact startups in 2020 – at $400 million and $577 million respectively – helping to drive the UK’s contribution to the global Net Zero goals.