EY: UK Remains Europe's Top FDI Destination for Digital Tech

The UK holds a strong position as a leading global technology hub
The UK holds a strong position as a leading global technology hub
The UK remains Europe leading destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in digital technology, according to EY’s 2024 UK Attractiveness Survey

The UK attracted more foreign investment projects than any other country in Europe last year, despite a 19% decline in project numbers across Europe.

According to EY, digital technology remains the leading sector for UK FDI and played a significant role in the country’s year-on-year FDI growth. Last year, in 2023, the UK had ranked second for overall FDI projects in 2023, after France.

UK FDI has grown in recent months on account of a resurgence in digital investment, with the country securing more than a quarter (27%) of all European digital tech projects last year. This is a that has gone up 8.9% from 2022, with London in particular having been touted by EY as the leading European city for digital technology investment.

Bolstering Europe’s digital presence

This news from EY comes in the midst of plenty of big technology organisations investing in countries across Europe, including AWS’ European Sovereign Cloud investment and Microsoft’s billion-dollar investments into several countries across the continent, including Sweden.

Behind the UK, EY cited France as the second leading country for digital technology FDI projects in 2023, securing 135 projects, followed by Germany which received 119 projects. 

As the current leading city, London has continued to garner much interest over the last ten years and continues to attract key digital projects. Notable investments include a new Google data centre just outside of the city to support artificial intelligence (AI) growth across the region.

“The UK owes much of its FDI growth this year to a resurgence in digital investment, making the UK something of an outlier in comparison to the Europe-wide trend for declining tech projects,” comments Peter Arnold, EY’s UK Chief Economist. “After a period of relative European dominance between 2016 and 2019, the UK’s tech project was totally disappointed in 2022 as high interest rates cut off access to easy capital and the sector cut costs and contracted globally.”

He adds: “While this pressure eased slightly in 2023, companies investing in tech still faced tighter borrowing conditions and so may have prioritised more established and resilient tech markets, such as the UK, over emerging ones.”

The UK holds a strong position as a leading global technology hub and continues to contribute to cutting-edge fields, including AI, fintech and cybersecurity operations. Amongst this resides a range of startups, world-leading universities and a highly skilled talent pool and, as EY UK&I Managing Partner Rob Atkinson explains, the country is only continuing to attract inward and overseas investment. 

“This creates employment opportunities and contributes to economic growth,” Rob says. “The UK provides fertile ground for tech companies to thrive, thanks in part to the strong collaboration between the public and private sectors. Maintaining this collaborative environment is essential if the UK is to remain competitive with other leading global destinations and offer a supportive, attractive place to do business.”

Elsewhere: Creating global technology opportunities

The United States (US) was the leading source of digital technology investment into the UK in 2023, contributing 50 projects. This was followed by India (36 projects) and Australia (13 projects).

Overall, EY finds that other projects across Europe are starting to decline, with the continent recording a 4% year-on-year decline - the lowest FDI total since 2020, which was 11% lower than its pre-pandemic level.

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While France was Europe’s largest recipient of inward investment with 1,194 total FDI projects in 2023, this represented a 5% decrease on its 2022 project total. Germany followed in third place and recorded 733 projects in 2023, which was a decline of 12% on the year before.

EY also found that, whilst the share of all European FDI projects grew to 17.3% in 2023 in the UK, the country’s broader FDI trend mirrors that within Europe. A lower level of projects were recorded in the last four years in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, with 220 fewer projects recorded in 2023 than at the UK’s high point in 2017.

“Whilst our latest data is promising, it’s important the tech sector does not become complacent,” Rob adds. “Many tech companies are continuing to face challenges in accessing capital as high interest rates and geopolitical headwinds create a difficult fundraising environment.”

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