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19 February, 2015 - 12:53 By Tony Quested

US companies urged to open HQs in digital Britain

Joanna Shields

The Government has launched a new programme to encourage two-way trade between the UK and the US.

David Cameron’s digital business adviser, Joanna Shields launched HQ-UK to help boost exports to the US and attract inward investment from the other side of the Pond.

Baroness Shields urged more US technology companies to build their international headquarters in the UK. Apple has already signed up for offices in Cambridge while Spotify and Amazon are growing in the innovation hotspot, along with newcomers such as Nasdaq giant Brocade, which is native to San Jose but globally influential.

Baroness Shields said the UK internet economy was booming – already worth more than £120 billion annually, with digital job growth set to outperform all other sectors by 2020.

HQ-UK is designed to showcase why the UK is the best place to establish an international HQ. The programme includes a concierge service that offers a single point of contact who will roll out the red carpet to make expansion easy for US tech companies.

The service also includes advice on speeding up visa applications, priority border control at UK airports, accelerated access to UK bank accounts and support for company incorporation.

Baroness Shields said: “This initiative demonstrates exactly why tech companies should choose the UK as their international HQ and operational base when they expand from the US.

“Nowhere beats the UK as an international hub for tech companies who are looking to thrive, innovate and grow. As someone who has spent 25 years operating on both sides of the Atlantic, I have no hesitation in saying that the UK is now the best place to build a global business.

“Number one for inward foreign direct investment stock in Europe and second in the world after the US, more companies choose the UK as their base than anywhere else in Europe. 

“With the British economy growing at the fastest rate in the G7 in 2014, now is the time for technology companies expanding globally to choose the UK as their international hub.

“At the heart of the UK’s digital ecosystem is a skilled, tech-savvy workforce and the second largest labour market in the EU. Home to four of the world’s top six universities, the UK has the highest proportion of adults with tertiary education in Western Europe. 

“The UK has made an unrivalled commitment to building digital skills by introducing coding to the school curriculum nationwide and targeted initiatives such as Tech City UK’s Digital Business Academy.

“For companies who want to bring exceptional talent from outside of the EU, the UK offers a number of specialist visas, including the Exceptional Talent Visa for highly skilled tech talent, as well as entrepreneur and investor visas.

“From April 1, the UK’s fully reformed tax system will offer the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7 and the joint lowest in the G20. There are particular benefits for innovative companies – the Patent Box provides a 10 per cent tax rate for income arising from UK or EU patents, together with generous improved R & D tax credit regime and other reliefs for costs like interest and amortisation.

“The UK is a connected nation: As the digital capital of Europe, it offers a strong base for technology companies with clusters of digital excellence across the country.

“While many consider London to be the heart of the UK tech boom, a large percentage of the digital economy is based outside the city, with a rich tapestry of tech capabilities including software development in Newcastle, media and gaming in Brighton, and wireless and networking in Cambridge.”

• To find out more about how HQ-UK can help you benefit from the outstanding commercial opportunities the UK has to offer, contact your local UKTI relationship manager by visiting

HQ-UK is a joint initiative between UK Trade and Investment, Tech City UK, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Photograph of Baroness Shields courtesy: Rsreidphoto / CC BY-SA 4.0

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