This week, tens of thousands of tech experts from all over the world will descend on the capital for London Technology Week. It presents an opportunity to celebrate our city’s position as the tech capital of Europe. Inventors and innovators will parade the very latest in pioneering tech and digital thinking. And hundreds of workshops will explore everything from robotics to smart cities.
It’s a testament to London’s tech prowess that it’s impossible to think of such an event being hosted in any other European city. The sheer scale and diversity of the capital’s tech industry has made it a magnet for entrepreneurs and investors alike.
The facts speak for themselves. In the first quarter of 2015, investors pumped a record-breaking $682m (£459m) of venture capital into the city’s digital sector (a rise of 66 per cent on the same quarter last year). Since 2010, the number of digital businesses in East London’s Tech City alone has soared from 250 to over 3,000 and counting. Today, more than 350,000 Londoners are employed in digital businesses.
And it’s not just about Silicon Roundabout. London’s tech sector has many beating hearts.
Pockets of digital innovation have sprouted up across the capital. The new Knowledge Quarter in King’s Cross is home to Google, the Alan Turing Institute, the Digital Catapult and a host of research-focused firms. In Canary Wharf, a growing cluster of FinTech startups is lighting up One Canada Square. Haggerston’s makers movement has produced the likes of Roli, with its pioneering music and touch technology, and Primo, a maker of technology toys, as well as Goodnight Lamp, which is humanising technology and communication in groundbreaking ways.
A glance at the events on offer this week confirms that, when it comes to digital, few sectors are left untouched. From adtech to edtech, London boasts one of the world’s most exciting, diverse and successful ecosystems.
Of course, the flames of the UK digital economy were not sparked entirely by the industrious inhabitants of an East London postcode. A culture of entrepreneurship has been spreading like a pandemic across the nation. With more than half a million new companies registered in 2014 – including a higher proportion in tech than ever before – Britain boasts clusters of entrepreneurs across the country.
Tech City UK’s recent Tech Nation report found that a staggering 1.46m people are employed in digital businesses across the UK. London-based Just Eat, whose market capitalisation is £2.5bn, and global mobile advertising tech supremo Sumo Global, both recently expanded their teams in Bristol to tap into local development talent. “Cyber Valley” in Great Malvern may receive few headlines, but there’s a brain-powered hub of cyber-security startups around GCHQ doing amazing things.
Connecting London to the wider national ecosystem is crucial. A collaborative relationship between all our tech clusters can fast-track London and the UK to its rightful position at the top of the innovation stakes.
As we enjoy the feast of offerings at London Technology Week, let’s celebrate the fact that this city, and the UK as a whole, is coming of age as a global digital powerhouse.