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2020 lockdown fuels explosive growth in UK edtech sector

Lockdown measures and mandatory school closures in 2020 led to an explosive 71.5% growth of the UK’s education technology (edtech) sector, almost four times the previous year-on-year growth figure of 17.9%.

The growth puts the value of the UK edtech market at almost £3.5bn – with edtech exports pre-crisis bringing in £170m to the economy, now expected to have topped £292m.

The findings feature in a new report – EdTech: The Hyper-Accelerator – from global recruiter Robert Walters and data provider Vacancysoft.

Tom Chambers, Senior Manager – Technology at Robert Walters, said:In the UK, the edtech market is still very much in its infancy – whilst a surge in demand was forecast for 2020, the reality exceeded all expectations due to the impact of Covid-19 and the need to continue education remotely, simultaneously breaking down the barriers that prevent marginalised groups from accessing it.

“The requirement for both online courses and virtual classes as permanent academic fixtures will dramatically increase the scale of the sector over the next 12 months.”

David Roberts, CEO of edtech company KidsLoop, comments: “Unlike many other sectors, the pandemic acted as a ‘hyper accelerator’ for the edtech market. Overnight educational institutions were expected to take their classroom delivery entirely remote, with technology being the only enabler of this.

“In the UK, the biggest barrier to the uptake of edtech to date has primarily been around the cost and time associated with teacher retraining. However, during lockdown teachers had no choice but to become accustomed to edtech tools and by and large learnt on-the-job.

There are currently 600 edtech firms based in the UK – representing just 5% of all tech companies in the country. Despite this, overall vacancies in edtech grew by a staggering +56% in 2020 – compared to a +40% increase in vacancies across all other tech sectors in the UK.

While within the UK and Europe there are no edtech ‘unicorns’ (companies valued at over $1bn) as yet – with almost all unicorns based in the USA and China – the tide does seem to be turning. The UK now attracts almost half (41%) of all edtech investment coming into Europe. Investment in UK edtech has grown by +91%, compared to just 8% in Europe and a -12% decrease in the USA in recent years.

The Robert Walters report also identifies augmented reality (AR) as one of the key driving forces of the UK edtech market – growing by +119% in the past year alone. Digital Classrooms – those that almost wholly reliant on electronic devices and software – grew by +65% in 2020, and Software as a Service (SaaS) by +57%.

Roberts said: “The super-growth area truly will be in young children, in particular products that are more specialised and address niche or more complex needs – with users being premium schools. The biggest barrier in this market is the lack of test data in order to create a solid product, and it is here where the value of data will really grow.”

You can download a copy of the Edtech: The Hyper-Accelerator report here.

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