The UK has an EdTech scene that’s more attractive than ever to overseas investors, attracting nearly half (41%) of all investment in educational technology in Europe.
With a reported 72% growth in 2020, the UK’s EdTech industry is among the fastest growing in Europe. Venture capital investment in London-based EdTech firms increased by 21% to £67 million between 2019 and 2020, while £92 million was invested in emerging EdTech nationwide in 2020.
With over 1,000 companies providing educational platforms for both children and adults alike, as well as a thriving research and development scene, the UK provides an excellent base for EdTech opportunities.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping to reduce teacher workloads and improve efficiency within the classroom. Automated self-learning algorithms are reducing time spent on administrative tasks such as assessing and marking homework and tests, providing feedback and taking attendance.
The UK’s AI market is expected to experience significant growth over the next decade, with machine learning set to add £630 billion to the UK economy by 2035.
Massive Online Open Courses
There’s been increased enrolment in Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), as people seek to expand their skillset in their spare time. These online courses offer greater flexibility and a customisable learning experience.
Between 2007 and 2019, the percentage of people who reported enrolment in an online course grew from 4% to 17%.
Cloud-based Learning Management Systems
Learning Management Systems (LMS) provide a key opportunity for investors, as more and more schools are adopting cloud services for use in their provision of educational resources. This helps to ensure students and teachers can access these files outside of the classroom, and allows learning materials and homework to be stored in a single platform.
In 2020, over 50% of organisations moved their workload to the cloud, and the global LMS market is expected to grow from £11 billion in 2021 to £28 billion by 2026 - a compound annual growth rate of 19.1%.
The adoption of technology in the classroom has led to increased concerns regarding privacy and security of sensitive information online.
Cyber security in the EdTech sector is a priority for both service providers and educational institutions, with a reported 93% increase in cyberattacks targeting the UK’s education sector in 2021.
The UK has a large workforce specialising in this area, with over 300,000 professionals employed in cybersecurity in 2021.
The UK’s EdTech sector is the largest in Europe, and we have seen increased investment into UK EdTech in the wake of the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic due to the unprecedented need for remote learning.
In 2021, TechNation reported that investment increased from £17 million in the second quarter of 2020 to £26 million in the final quarter.
It’s estimated that UK schools already spend around £900 million a year on educational technology, a figure that’ll grow with the adoption of blended learning that’s followed COVID-19 restrictions.
Key UK assets
London serves as a major European EdTech hub, hosting two of the largest industry events in the world – EdTechX and Bett Show.
University College London offers a postgraduate course specialising in EdTech, while its EDUCATE Knowledge Lab enables research and innovation.
Belfast provides an excellent base for any EdTech company, with over 21,000 people employed in the wider tech sector.
There are over 20 EdTech firms in the region. Antrim-based Texthelp is a great example, as it’s a market leader in educational software and a brand that partners with leading tech firms such as Google, Microsoft and Apple to provide its software to 30 million users.
As home to MediaCityUK, Manchester is the UK’s Top Digital Tech City. The region hosts many of the most progressive EdTech providers in the UK, such as Frog Education, a world leader in the gamification of STEM subjects, with 12 million users worldwide.
South of England
The University of Oxford’s Critical Digital Education Research Group brings together an inter-disciplinary team of academics and postgraduate researchers to explore the applications of technology to education.
Their work includes GoGirl, a coding project for young women from non-traditional educational backgrounds aged 16-21.
The UK has a thriving research and development scene. Edtech UK provides a national network and advisory forum for EdTech businesses, providing research and evidence to help businesses futureproof their EdTech offerings. Their Edtech Hubs in Humber and Greater Manchester offer centres of professional expertise that drive innovation in the sector.
In 2019, £20 million was granted to oversee the creation of the Research and Innovation Hub on Technology for Education (EdTech Hub). A collaborative research venture with 6 partners, including the University of Cambridge, studies how appropriate uses of technology can improve learning outcomes in low-income countries, and how this can bring the greatest social returns on EdTech investment.
The EDUCATE Programme is the UK’s leading EdTech research accelerator run by F6S, BESA and EDUCATE Ventures Research Ltd. It assists EdTech start-ups in accessing research necessary to create the greatest educational solutions, as well as helping SMEs increase their investment in research and development.
Business and government support
Support is available in the form of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, available to firms based in the UK of any size. Funded by UK Research and Innovation, they provide grants to help businesses innovate, grow and develop, as well as connecting businesses with academic partners in order to address innovation challenges.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) drives innovation in the technology sector by bridging the gap between businesses and pioneering science. It gives support to tech start-ups by offering business incubation programmes, providing the access to facilities, expertise and networking events.
Valued at £13 billion, BYJU’S is the world’s most valuable EdTech start-up, and it’s recently set up an innovation hub in London’s St. Pancras.
Their ambition is to redefine the application of technology to classroom learning through their innovations in AI, gamification and mixed reality technology.
In 2019, Turnitin, an EdTech company known for its internet-based plagiarism detector, was acquired by US-based Advance Publications.
Turnitin’s Newcastle site has seen investments of around £310,000, facilitating the recruitment of an additional 40 people.
It now has a headcount of 140 that’s expected to reach 165 in the next 2 years.
VRLab Academy, a Turkish EdTech innovator that produces VR content for science courses, moved its global headquarters to London in 2021. It also invested over £500,000 in their new site, creating 12 new jobs.