Barclays launches innovation fund from the ashes of Tech Nation 

The innovation arm of UK banking group Barclays plc has officially launched a new government-funded initiative to support UK technology startups, and drive regional growth. Armed with a Digital Growth Grant of £12m, Barclays Eagle Labs has started accepting applications from entrepreneurs and technology firms whose propositions address key issues facing UK businesses. 

The decision to shut down Tech Nation earlier this year and transfer government support to a new Barclays-led scheme was met with dismay, with many observers bemoaning the end of a scheme that delivered some significant success for UK start ups. Whilst the total sum involved may be relatively modest, the Digital Growth Grant received by Barclays was a highly controversial decision which effectively robbed the previous recipient, UK entrepreneur network, Tech Nation, of its core funding. Following the £12m grant awarded to Barclays more than 140 founders, senior executives and investors sent an open letter to the UK government arguing against the award. 

However, a DCMS spokesperson said: “We have supported Tech Nation since 2017 to accelerate the growth of start-ups and scaleups across the UK.  

Our decision to make the Digital Growth Grant competitive brings the funding into line with the majority of government grants. Barclays Eagle Labs was successful because their application represented the best value for taxpayers’ money, will benefit the most startups and scale-ups over the next two years, and was scored highest by an independent panel. 

Originally launched in 2011, Tech Nation was firmly grounded in the UK startup ecosystem. The organisation subsequently expanded from the merger of Tech City UK and Tech North. Barclays plc meanwhile has total assets in excess of £1.5tr and launched its Eagle Labs incubator programme in 2015. 

During its lifetime, Tech Nation played a key role in supporting technology innovation in the UK and claimed to provide a RoI of £15 for every £1 of public funding that it invested. Off the back of the UK government’s decision to cut its funding, and after more than a decade in existence, Tech Nation has announced the transfer of its remaining assets to Founders Forum Group.  

Last month, the government launched its new Science and Technology Framework under the newly created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and according the government, it will

Challenge every part of government to better put the UK at the forefront of global science and technology this decade through 10 key actions – creating a coordinated cross-government approach. 

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