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Europe Is Struggling to Keep Local Talent for Its Homegrown Tech Scene

December 4, 2017

Finding tech talent in Europe is often difficult—and sometimes impossible. At a recent House of Lords select committee hearing on artificial intelligence, held in London and attended by MIT Technology Review, Joseph Reger, chief technology officer of Fujitsu’s international operations, said that it is “difficult to find the right people” for AI projects in Britain. “The market is essentially empty,” he explained. Similar grumbles are heard across the rest of the continent and in other tech sectors.

That seems surprising. Europe is home to five of the world’s top 10 universities in computer science, and a report published last week by London-based venture capital firm Atomico claimed that the number of software developers on the continent had risen by 500,000 in the last year. There should be plenty of expertise to go around.

So what gives? Well, according another part of the same Atomico report, much of the blame can be laid at the feet of America’s tech giants, whose aggressive expansions across Europe have upended the tech labor market. The likes of Google and Facebook hoover up talent, offering large salaries—about 50 percent above local market average—as well as scope for huge career progression. Speaking of which: Facebook today announced 800 new jobs in London alone, brushing off any Brexit concerns that other firms may have.

The situation is exacerbated by Europe’s venture capital scene: VC firms on the eastern side of the Atlantic tend to be far smaller, and there’s less cash sloshing around in total, too. That makes it harder for founders to snag funding for their ventures, so many startups choose to set up in America or Asia—taking more talent with them. To that point, the Wall Street Journal reports, five new private-public tech investment funds in Europe, worth around $2.4 billion, hope to invigorate the local startup scene.

It is, for Europe, a lot of cash. (For context, this year the continent’s tech scene is expected to collect a record $19 billion from investors.) Will it be much competition against the lure of big tech firm paychecks and foreign funding sources, though? That remains to be seen.

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