An immigration system that works for science and innovation

This submission will demonstrate why the UK’s tech sector needs an immigration system that attracts and allows the best and brightest to come to the UK whether for long-term work or for short-term mobility and secondment.

Migration has been, and continues to be, a primary driver of growth within the UK’s tech sector, and is critical in delivering continued innovation and competitiveness. The European contribution to this growth must not be underestimated and a conversation about migration driven by arbitrary targets and unrealistic expectations of the skills available domestically that the sector needs to keep pace will inevitably damage the sector and the wider economy.

The submission first outlines the current problems in the UK’s immigration system and the digital skills gap before suggesting guiding principles that the Committee should consider when developing its own thinking on an immigration system that works for science and innovation. In doing so, techUK does not believe we can simply ignore the system that currently exists for non-EEA nationals and the flaws therein.

techUK's analysis suggests that, were the pace of job growth to continue at its current rate, there would be 1.5 million new tech jobs to be filled by 2030. Given that there are currently 1.49 million unemployed people in total in the UK, filling such a demand for skilled roles from solely within the next few decades would be wholly unrealistic. Furthermore, our projections do not take into account the digitisation of the wider UK economy and the skills we will need for digital jobs beyond the ‘tech sector’ and therefore the projections taking this into account are likely to be much larger. The tech sector depends on being able to bring skill and talent into the UK from the EEA and further afield in order to continue to grow and flourish, as well as sending UK staff abroad for specific projects or longer-term placements. This ability must not be lost.

In considering the future immigration system, the Science and Technology Committee must fully review the flaws in the existing non-EEA migration system. The Committee must propose a future immigration system that:

  • Is effective and efficient based on the needs of the economy not on arbitrary caps and targets; 
  • is as transparent as possible for both individuals and employers so it is as easy as possible for global talent to enter the UK, start a life here and know their rights; 
  • considers short-term, as well as long-term migration, to allow for easy business travel or secondments;
  • acknowledge our deep, cultural, economic and scientific relationship with the EU and consider similar migration arrangements with other countries the UK has strong research ties and to; 
  • ensure British talent can also work and study abroad with countries with whom we have a strong relationship in trade, research and innovation;
  • understand that migration is a key focus of all trade deals in the future and that preferential agreements made with the EU can be replicated with other countries.  

 Read the full submission via the link below and if you would like to discuss further please get in touch with Vinous Ali or India Lucas.

  • Vinous Ali

    Vinous Ali

    Head of Policy | Skills, Innovation and Digital Strategy
    T 07595 410 658
techUK submission to the Science and Tech Committee (pdf)

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