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Investment in education technology boomed ahead of Covid-19 outbreak

Investment rose 91% last year, according to new data.

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Children have been learning from home (Peter Byrne/PA)

Children have been learning from home (Peter Byrne/PA)

Children have been learning from home (Peter Byrne/PA)

Investment spiked in education technology companies last year, even before the coronavirus crisis forced schools to adopt remote learning en masse, according to new data.

The UK’s education technology sector attracted 289 million US dollars (£237 million) in venture capital money last year, according to new data from Dealroom.

It is a 91% jump from the year before, when 151 million dollars (£124 million) were poured into the sector.

The boost came as the US’s sector fell by 12% and venture capital investment in European education technology companies rose 8%.

Video calling friends, exchanges via social media or playing Fortnite with friends online will all help keep children and teenagers connected throughout the lockdown.Amy Orben, Cambridge University

Since 2014, venture capitalists have poured 857 million dollars (£703 million) into the UK’s sector.

It came ahead of a period when kids are taking to games such as Minecraft to stay in touch with each other and to learn during lockdown.

“Over the last six weeks the UK’s world-leading [education technology] sector has used its expertise to develop practical solutions and online learning tools for schools, parents and pupils during this challenging time,” said Caroline Dinenage, minister for digital.

“The work it is doing right now will pave the way for new technology to help shape the future of education in the UK and around the world. I thank the sector for all its efforts and urge it to keep it up.”

Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech Nation, said: “It is increasingly evident that coronavirus is accelerating the adoption of [education technology], as both students and parents are looking for alternatives to continue with the education process.”

Meanwhile, Cambridge scientist Amy Orben encouraged parents to stop worrying about the time their kids spend in front of screens, and instead focus on what they are doing online.

“Digital games and platforms can potentially mitigate some of the negative consequences children and adolescents are feeling from being separated from their friends and should not be underestimated,” she said.

“Activities such as video calling friends, exchanges via social media or playing Fortnite with friends online will all help keep children and teenagers connected throughout the lockdown.”

PA