With just over a month to go until the EU referendum on 23rd June, Shaping Cloud have been considering the implications from our own perspective as a growing technology business. How will the Vote to Leave or Vote to Stay affect us as a company? Would leaving the EU make the achievement of our objectives easier, or more difficult?

Our viewpoint comes as a UK-based SME with 30 staff working on digital transformation in the Public Sector. We have clients in Europe, and indeed further afield, but collectively these have made up less than 10% of our revenue to date since we began in 2010 – and strategically we are focused on working with Local and Regional Government in the UK.

Our Founder & CEO Carlos Oliveira is Vice-Chair of the techUK Public Services Board, a collective of business leaders engaged in digital public services delivery which aims to improve engagement between Government and the tech industry, provide policy leadership and champion better use of disruptive technology to drive Government efficiency and transform our public services.

Carlos has spoken at a number of techUK events about the importance of the new Digital Single Market and how this will be a great catalyst for growth for us and others like us – even as a company focused on the UK. Just this week we have been awarded an EU-funded project spanning two years for the University of Sheffield, and the European Cloud Initiative would provide a huge amount of opportunity for businesses such as ours. The need to integrate and consolidate online platforms, federate existing scientific clouds/research infrastructures, and develop cloud-based services will all rely heavily on specialist technical skills provided by the private sector:

 

“As a rapidly growing SME in an extremely competitive landscape it is vital that the barriers for us to trade and grow are as low as possible. Initiatives such as the Digital Single Market are hugely significant for us – one set of VAT rules, one set of data protection rules and a huge addressable market. This is what membership of the EU allows us to do and to close that trading route by voting to leave would be a huge blow.”

Carlos Oliveira, Shaping Cloud Founder & CEO

At the core of all products Shaping Cloud develop is the ability to be better connected via technology. A practical example is work we are doing with a UK based SME to create a data platform for the agri-food sector – giving farmers the power to share data with each other to raise productivity and profitability. Harmonised data protection rules mean that this initiative can easily extend beyond the UK and thereby yield more powerful insights. The international food system is complex and highly interconnected. The data platform we are building can help us to understand this and ensure that we remain food secure, but to do this it is critical that we are able to easily access data beyond our shores.

Our success to date has in no doubt been hugely influenced by our position as a Microsoft Gold Partner. Microsoft this week issued a formal communication to all partners stating that as a business very committed to the UK, their view is that we should remain in the EU. Although based in the U.S., Microsoft have a long history in the UK – it is here where they opened their first international office in 1982, and they currently employ more than 5,000 people here. Microsoft state our being part of the EU as a key factor in their recent investments here – for example the recent announcement that they will start offering cloud services this year from new UK-based data centres, and the decision to open their first overseas R&D facility in Cambridge, benefiting from collaboration across the wider region:

“This flexibility of doing business attracts the best people, and the investment that follows them, to the UK.”

Michel Van der Bel, CEO, Microsoft UK

Closer to (our) home, Manchester Metropolitan University hosted a DISCUSS event last night which included presentations covering political, economic, social, business & legal implications of the referendum, culminating in a 2 hour debate and poll.

 

A notable absence was any discussion around the implications for technology, with some side comments made on both sides about the Vote Stay positives (e.g. the EU’s ability to boost digital agencies such as The Sharp Project) and Vote Leave negatives (the EU’s ‘inability’ to spawn tech giants currently centred in the U.S. such as Facebook, Google and Twitter). This argument did fail to reference Skype and Spotify however; both European-born ‘giants’ of note – and we would point the speaker to this article confirming $24 billion+ startup exits in Europe in the last 5 years. After a Q&A session the votes showed a 74% preference to Vote to Stay and we are inclined to agree that as a technology business this is the way to go. We’d love to hear your views, particularly in relation to EU implications for tech – get involved in the conversation by following Shaping Cloud on Twitter and/or LinkedIn and getting in touch.  

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