Apple’s Jonathan Ive says immigration vital for UK firms

Jony Ive, Apple's chief designer, with Tim Cook, Apple CEOImage copyright
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Apple chief design officer Sir Jonathan Ive (left) reports to chief executive Tim Cook

The UK must keep its doors open to top talent from around the world if its technology firms are to thrive, Apple’s chief designer has told the BBC.

Sir Jonathan Ive, who has just been appointed Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, also said that technology hubs like Silicon Valley had a “tremendous cultural diversity”.

The iPhone designer did not comment on efforts to curb UK immigration.

Some technology firms fear they may lose access to talent after Brexit.

“That general principle [on access] is terribly important for creating a context for multiple companies to grow and in a healthy way explore and develop new products and new product types,” Sir Jonathan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Media captionApple’s Sir Jonathan Ive speaks to Today presenter Mishal Husain about immigration

Fabulous tradition

The Briton has led Apple’s design team since 1996 and is responsible for the look and feel of its devices such as the iPhone and iPod.

Sir Jonathan said the UK had a “fabulous tradition of design education”, but that it needed to do more to become a technology hub on a par with Silicon Valley in California, where the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are based.

“I think Silicon Valley has infrastructures to support start-up companies … ranging from technological support through to funding,” he said.

“And there is the sense that failure isn’t irreversible, so very often people will work on an idea, and there isn’t the same sense of stigma when one idea and perhaps one company doesn’t work out.”

The region also prided itself on its diversity, allowing “like-minded” people from around the world to join forces to create new products.

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Sir Jonathan designs the look and feel of all Apple hardware, including the iPhone

“I think at Apple we’ve been very clear on how important it is that we have a diverse pool of talent that we can hire from,” Sir Jonathan said.

Some UK technology firms have warned that they could lose access to the international talent they need after Britain leaves the European Union.

Cities such as Berlin also hope to coax tech firms away from London, which has been considered as Europe’s leading tech hub, after Brexit occurs.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said earlier this year he was “very optimistic” about the UK’s future outside the EU.

“Yes there will be bumps in the road along the way but the UK’s going to be fine,” he told Prime Minster Theresa May at a meeting in Downing Street.

Apple also plans to build a new UK headquarters in London.

Sir Jonathan was knighted in 2012 for services to design and enterprise.