Business Technology

David Cameron's digital advisor Joanna Shields launches HQ-UK scheme for US tech firms

4 min read

12 February 2015

Former deputy editor

A new government initiative called HQ-UK has been launched by prime minister David Cameron's digital advisor Joanna Shields in a bid to encourage American businesses to choose Britain as its base of operations.

The HQ-UK scheme follows Boris Johnson’s visit to New York on 11 February when he revealed that a record number of American investors had funded British tech ventures in 2014 – something he wants to see continue in the future.

The new government announcement highlighted that the UK’s internet economy is worth over £120m annually, with digital job growth overshadowing all sectors by 2020. Joanna Shields – who is also the chair of Tech City – plans to help the country’s digital progress speed up with the HQ-UK programme, which will encourage US tech businesses to choose Britain as their international headquarters.

The HQ-UK scheme will simplify and quicken processes for American firms when it comes to visa applications, border control and UK bank accounts. The joint initiative is a collaborative effort from UKTI, Tech City UK, the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, and the Department of Culture, Media & Sport.

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Shields said: “Today, on behalf of her majesty’s government, I am pleased to launch HQ-UK – a new initiative which demonstrates exactly why tech companies should choose the UK as their international HQ and operational base when they expand from the US.

“Nowhere beats the UK as an international hub for tech companies who are looking to thrive, innovate and grow. As someone who has spent 25 years operating on both sides of the Atlantic, I have no hesitation in saying that the UK is now the best place to build a global business.”

Some of the reasons US firms should come to the UK, as pitched by the government, include:

  • Number one for inward foreign direct investment stock in Europe and second in the world after the US, more companies choose the UK as their base than anywhere else in Europe. 
  • Home to four of the world’s top six universities, the UK has the highest proportion of adults with tertiary education in Western Europe.
  • Unrivalled commitment to building digital skills by introducing coding to the school curriculum nationwide.
  • For companies who want to bring exceptional talent from outside of the EU, the UK offers a number of specialist visas, including the Exceptional Talent Visa for highly skilled tech talent, as well as entrepreneur and investor visas.
  • From April 1st 2015, the UK’s fully reformed tax system will offer the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7 and the joint lowest in the G20.
  • As the digital capital of Europe, the UK offers a strong base for technology companies with clusters of digital excellence across the country.
  • While many consider London to be the heart of the UK tech boom, a large percentage of the digital economy is based outside the city, with a rich tapestry of tech capabilities including software development in Newcastle, media and gaming in Brighton, and wireless and networking in Cambridge.

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