Digital survey was ‘hyped and flawed’

Business analyst Marcus Gibson, founder of the Gibson Index
Business analyst Marcus Gibson, founder of the Gibson Index
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A business analyst has slammed a survey hailing the success of ‘digital’ Britain for over-stating the contribution of the sector compared with manufacturing.

Marcus Gibson, founder of the Gibson Index, which has been surveying businesses since 2003, said the recent Tech City quango’s ‘Tech Nation’ survey was “deeply flawed”.

Tech Nation claimed there had been a 17 per cent growth in new digital companies in Sheffield since 2010 and today 21,403 people work in the sector. Nationally, it predicted job growth would outperform all other occupation categories by 2020.

But Marcus Gibson said tens of thousands of foreign-born individuals had registered as companies to buy UK homes and avoid stamp duty. No one could tell how many staff new digital companies employed and the vast majority were one-man bands. And even defining a digital firm was tricky because of the continued use of obsolete SIC codes at Companies House.

He added: “What sort of company does a city such as Sheffield really need?

“The answer is more manufacturers, more engineers. The economic contribution made by a multi-generational, family-owned engineering manufacturer - which employs, say, 40 staff, pays pensions and also buys plenty of British-made components within its own long-term, complex supply chain - is far superior to the contribution made by a digital firm, which rarely buys any British-made goods.”

He held up Queen’s award winning Abbey Forged Products and British Chamber of Commerce manufacturer of the year President Engineering Group as “seriously well managed” firms making a huge contribution.

He added: “What Sheffield needs is more, many more, of these types of manufacturing companies.”