UK tops G20 as the best place for digital business

Among the G20 nations, the UK has emerged as a leader in cutting red tape for digital entrepreneurs, as well as its knowledge database, according to research from EY. The nation's overall ranking, however, is marred by the lack of adequate access to finance and digital skills.

The UK has been ranked as the top G20 country for the ease of starting a digital business and navigating through the country’s regulatory environment, according to new research released by EY today in its G20 Digital Entrepreneurship Barometer.

The UK scored the highest marks for its digital business environment, which includes regulation, such as recruitment practices, taxation frameworks, time taken to start a business and legal efficiency.

The nation came in second, only to the United States, for its digital knowledge base and information and communications technology market, which includes access to technology and expertise, as well as the quality of research institutions.

“Taking the hassle out of getting a business off the ground boosts the creation of innovative and dynamic businesses, which drive economic growth in the UK,” Radhika Chadwick, partner for digital government at EY said.

“Although vocal on the digital and start-up agenda, the government itself cannot be left behind. Bringing the same digital environment into Whitehall will ensure greater savings are delivered for the taxpayer through better use of technology as well as the public reaping the benefits of faster and more efficient public services.”

Not enough investment activity or and digital skills

The UK’s lowest ranking amongst the G20 nations was for access to finance such as venture capital and angel funding (ninth place). However, the UK fared slightly better on availability of digital skills and entrepreneurial education taking seventh place and was listed fourth for fostering an entrepreneurial culture.

“Access to finance and digital skills look to be a bigger challenge for young UK entrepreneurs compared to other G20 countries but despite this, we are still faring better than the majority,” Chadwick explained.

“Promoting entrepreneurialism through TV programmes such as Dragon’s Den, as well as greater publicising of start-up funds for young people will go a long way  in giving a leg-up to wealth creators of the future.”

Young entrepreneurs need more support

The Barometer is the basis of a new report, “Digital Disruption — Threat or Opportunity for Entrepreneurship?” released to mark the start of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA) summit in China.

It also identifies key policy recommendations, including clear governance on data access and privacy; support for cross-border research clusters, and the establishment of a new G20 youth entrepreneurship mobility visa.

According to Bjorn Conway, head of UK government and public sector at EY, with Brexit on the horizon, the UK government needs to think about how to set the economy up to succeed in the digital age – more so than the other G20 nations.

“By understanding the issues that young entrepreneurs face, policy can help play a critical role in turning digital disruption into a powerful opportunity,” he said.

“Supporting an entrepreneurial environment that encourages our young people to establish, grow and scale their businesses will ensure the UK continues to be competitive on the world stage into the future.”

For success in the digital age, the report recommends:

Greater access to finance to support the development of early-stage financing. More support schemes for young entrepreneurs, including incubators and accelerators is also a good idea.

Reduce investment barriers to promote access to foreign capital for entrepreneurs.

Protect young entrepreneurs’ intellectual property with targeted provisions to encourage innovation and collaboration with larger organisations and investors.

Champion a G20 entrepreneur visa and promote the development of support networks for newly arrived entrepreneurs in G20 host countries.

Establish clear guidelines on data privacy and security, including usage, data rights and quality.

Teach entrepreneurship in schools from elementary through to final years of high school and prioritise STEM education, particularly for female students.

Promote youth entrepreneurship mentoring and coaching programmes within industry and entrepreneurship networks

Foster multi-stakeholder digital clusters and networks, including those with a sectoral or city-level focus, along with coaching and mentoring schemes.

Support university-entrepreneur collaboration, including through funding incentives for universities

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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