February 2, 2023
At a Glance
- Nonprofit’s decision to close comes as funding goes to Barclays Bank instead.
- Organization helped a host of AI startups, including Re:course and Fimily.
- Tech Nation looking to sell off assets as employees face layoffs.
Tech Nation, the U.K. government-sanctioned incubator for tech startups, is shutting down on March 31 after having its funding slashed, dealing a blow to AI startups.
Tech Nation was a Cameron administration initiative that had been operating for around a decade but is now to cease operations after losing its core grant funding to Barclays Bank. It is looking for investors to acquire its portfolio of assets.
“With this foundation removed, Tech Nation’s remaining activities are not viable on a standalone basis,” according to a Tech Nation statement. “As a direct result of the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) grant withdrawal, Tech Nation will be ceasing all existing operations through a carefully planned wind-down and has commenced a redundancy consultation process.”
The nonprofit incubator said it looked at whether it could survive without core government funding, but concluded “this is not an option.” Its activities have been built on core grant DCMS funding. Also, working without government funds would “compromise our status as a public interest company.”
Among the 4,000 tech startups it has worked with include AI companies Re:course, which makes AI platforms for health care settings, computer vision startup Filmily and data risk management solution developers Holistic AI.
Tech Nation also ran a growth program that offered peer-to-peer support for startups working in applied AI fields.
But now, the organization will cease operations at the end of March, with all employees set to be laid off. Tech Nation is now looking to sell its portfolio of assets as part of its winding down process.
“We want to thank the thousands of tech founders who have participated in our programs, training, events and research over the years; in particular for how they approached their involvement with candidacy, commitment and collaboration, which has been the foundation of the strength of the Tech Nation network,” a farewell statement reads.
The decision to not grant funding to Tech Nation comes amid the government’s pledge to grow the U.K. tech environment. Prime minister Rushi Sunak called for AI to be integrated more into the country’s national health care provider and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt recently touted tech as a key growth area in a speech written by OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
Tech Nation had an impact on another government pledge, ‘Levelling Up’ – the program designed to stimulate growth in communities outside of London. Sam Beni, head of innovation at Tech Nation, said at an event last year that 69% of AI startups helped by Tech Nation were outside the capital.
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