UK now the third largest venture capital market in the world, with biggest increase in share of global investment

Press release 11 July 2024

  • UK companies raised £72bn in total venture capital investment between 2021 and 2023 as the UK becomes the third largest market behind only the US and China

  • UK strengthens its international position as its share of global VC investment rises from 3.4% to 5.8% over the past decade, the largest increase of any of the top 12 global markets

  • Following 2022 market downturn, equity investment for smaller businesses returned to 2019 levels in 2023

  • Smaller business equity investment is up by 182% over the last 10 years

  • British Business Bank supported 15% of UK smaller business equity deals

The UK has overtaken India as the third largest venture capital (VC) market in the world, now accounting for 6% of global investment as UK companies raised £72bn between 2021 and 2023 Read footnote text 1 , reveals the British Business Bank’s annual Small Business Equity Tracker, published today.

The UK has strengthened its international position over the past decade as its share of global VC investment has risen to 5.8% in 2021-2023 from 3.4% in 2014-2016, the largest percentage point increase of any of the top 12 global markets.

Equity investment for smaller businesses returns to 2019 levels

Following the market downturn in the middle of 2022, equity investment for smaller businesses has returned to 2019 levels. Full year data shows that investment declined by 48% to £8.8bn in 2023 in the UK, in line with other equity markets, while the number of deals fell by 25% to 2,152.

As has been the case in other markets, a tighter macroeconomic environment and heightened interest ratescontinues both to affect the relative attractiveness of the asset class and hamper exit opportunities for UK companies.However, equity investment for smaller businesses has remained at over £2bn in each of the last five quarters, demonstrating some stability in the market.

While the equity market has seen two consecutive years of contraction, investment values have increased by 182% over the last 10 years, with deal numbers 42% higher. Since 2014, more than 21,000 equity deals have been completed, collectively providing over £90bn of equity finance to support the growth of innovative smaller businesses.

As has been the case globally, 2023 was a tough year for the UK equity finance market. However, despite the continued challenges of higher interest rates and fewer exit opportunities, it is encouraging that investment now looks to be stabilising at over £2bn per quarter for smaller businesses.

The UK has also become the third largest venture capital market in the world, overtaking India, and is the largest market in Europe, accounting for more than a third of investment across the continent. This demonstrates that the UK is building on its position as a global leader in venture capital, and this presents a substantial opportunity for both domestic and international investors.

Louis Taylor CEO, British Business Bank

Key strengths and opportunities for the UK

Fintech: The fintech sector has been a key driver of recent improvements in the UK’s international performance. The UK now accounts for 11.3% of global VC investment in this industry, behind only the US, and 48.3% of investment across Europe. Factors behind the UK’s specialisation include an innovation-enabling regulatory environment, and a strong financial services industry providing talent, networks and a large domestic market for fintech startups.

Software: The UK has also made significant progress in the software sector, with its global market share increasing from 2.7% to 6.2% over the past decade.

Green tech and deeptech: The UK has also made smaller improvements in market share in the green tech and deeptech sectors, now accounting for 4.5% and 3.8% of global investment respectively.

Life sciences: While life sciences continue to be a strength of the UK, its global investment market share of 4.8% has remained static over the last 10 years.

The UK has strong regional ecosystems with London as a leading VC hub with a strong fintech cluster, attracting 42.6% of European fintech investment over the past decade. Cambridge and Oxford are also particularly competitive in life sciences, where they raised 7.0% and 5.0% of European investment respectively during 2014-2023.

International comparison with the US

The UK continues to close the gap on the US in equity investment. In absolute terms the US raised eight times more investment than the UK in 2021-2023, a significant reduction from 14 times more investment in 2014-2016. When adjusting for the size of the economy, however, the UK now raises the same amount of investment as the US at 0.97% of GDP. Though encouraging the analysis suggests this has largely resulted from cyclical fluctuations since the pandemic, and not necessarily because the UK has closed the gap with the US on a structural basis. 

Looking at UK market gaps on a sectoral basis, the UK performs most strongly in fintech where it raises twice as much as the US in GDP-adjusted terms. The sectors in which the UK has the largest gap with the US include life sciences, where the US raises 59% more investment, R&D intensive sectors (41%) and deeptech (27%). In these sectors, VC investment requires specialist technical and scientific knowledge, as well as large pools of patient capital, areas which remain challenges for UK companies seeking to scale. 

British Business Bank more likely to support tech and university spinouts

Between 2021 and 2023 the British Business Bank supported 15% of UK equity deals and 18% of total investment through its equity programmes. This represented a slight increase from the 2020-2022 period, when 13% of deals and 15% of investment was backed by the Bank.

The Bank’s programmes have focused on financing innovative high-growth companies. During 2021-2023, 48% of Bank-supported deals were in the technology/IP-based sector, compared to 42% of deals across the overall market. The Bank is also more likely to fund university spinouts; these accounted for 13% of Bank-supported deals, compared to 9% across the wider market, with the leading contributors being British Business Investment’s Regional Angels Programme, the Managed Funds Programme, and British Patient Capital.

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Notes to editors

About the British Business Bank

The British Business Bank is the UK government’s economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to drive sustainable growth and prosperity across the UK and to enable the transition to a net zero economy, by improving access to finance for smaller businesses. Its remit is to design, deliver and efficiently manage UK-wide smaller business access to finance programmes for the UK government.

The British Business Bank’s core programmes support over £12.4bn Read footnote text 2  of finance to more than 90,000 smaller businesses Read footnote text 3 .

As well as increasing the supply and diversity of finance for UK smaller businesses through its programmes, the Bank works to raise awareness of finance options available to smaller businesses. The British Business Bank Finance Hub provides independent and impartial information to businesses about finance options, featuring short films, expert guides, checklists and articles from finance providers to help make their application a success.

The British Business Bank is also responsible for administering the government’s three Coronavirus loan schemes and its Future Fund, together responsible for delivering £80.4bn in finance to 1.67m businesses. These schemes are now closed to new applications.

British Business Bank plc is a public limited company registered in England and Wales, registration number 08616013, registered office at Steel City House, West Street, Sheffield, S1 2GQ. Wholly owned by HM government, the Bank and its subsidiaries are not banking institutions and do not operate as such. They are not authorised or regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). A complete legal structure chart for the group can be found on the British Business Bank website.