The future will be challenging for UK tech, but this is how the sector can succeed

From London Tech Week 2018, Russ Shaw shares his key takeaways from the festival and what the future looks like for Britain's tech businesses...

Catch up on all of Russ Shaw’s London Tech Week 2018 blogs:


As London Tech Week draws to a close, I am confident that the UK tech sector is set on great trajectory and has matured enormously since the inaugural event in 2014.

UK tech will continue to play a leading role both within Britain’s economy and on the global tech landscape.

The prime minister has shown great support for London Tech Week, hosting a fantastic reception, welcoming leading figures from across the tech community to Downing Street. Theresa May has made concrete commitments to the tech community including the launch of a £2.5bn programme to boost UK companies expanding overseas – confirmation of the tech community’s renowned reputation.

London Tech Week has not only been a celebration of tech businesses, but also of the enthusiasm and passion that the community shows towards furthering the sector and reaching phenomenal new heights.

With the support of so many diverse attendees and event hosts, London Tech Week undoubtedly exceeded the sum of its many parts.

The success of the week’s events is innumerable. To name but a few – the launch of the RetailTech 50 List provided a platform to showcase the UK’s contribution to the digital transformation of the retail industry, the second annual India-UK Tech Summit saw the continuation of a valuable dialogue between two giants in the global tech scene – and what a start to the week with the LeadersIn Tech Summit, diving straight into the hot topics and laying out the opportunities and challenges that we face. And I must mention the brilliant CogX event at Tobacco Dock, showcasing London’s leading role in AI on the world stage.

This week has acted as a cross-section for the capital’s tech ecosystem and shone a light on the depth and strength of the UK’s tech verticals – the front runners of fintech and deeptech along with those on the rise, retailtech, healthtech and creativetech.

The future is bright for entrepreneurs pioneering innovation in these rapidly emerging sectors and the UK will play a prominent role in developments.

The guests in attendance, the organisations that hosted events and those who supported London Tech Week have shown a commitment to the prosperity of UK tech that is truly inspiring.

The future has become more uncertain in recent years with the Brexit decision and the subsequent negotiations – despite this, the UK has all the tools needed to remain at the forefront, as a truly global tech hub. Britain’s tech community is prepared to face the inevitable challenges of a rapidly evolving digital age and thrive.

There are hurdles that need to be met and in the not so distant future. The beating heart of the digital economy is talent. We must pursue the goal of having one million workers employed in London tech by 2023 if the UK is to keep its seat alongside the US and China on the global stage.

This week the government has really stepped up and engaged on the issues that have been surrounding immigration. Tech London Advocates has been calling for third party Visa sponsorship for years – the new ‘Startup Visa’ acts to move some of the administrative burden onto the private sector.

There has also been significant progress made in reforming Tier 2 Visa legislation. Removing NHS workers from the allocation and freeing up spaces for tech companies to gain access to the foreign talent that they urgently require is a move to be applauded.

These are steps in the right direction, but we are not there yet – the ultimate goal has to be to raise the cap.

Meeting the demand for tech talent must also mean nurturing home-grown talent and making the necessary investments to create an education system that supports the economy.

Maintaining the UK’s competitive edge is vital and rests on our ability to ensure that those in colleges, schools, universities and in employment have access to the digital economy through the necessary skills.

By placing UK tech under the spotlight, London Tech Week has made it clear that the industry is positioned to respond to the challenges posed by the immediate future. Despite this, we cannot rest on our laurels.

If the sector is to become what we envision it to be, then we must strive for the greatness UK tech can achieve. Seeing so many enthusiastic and passionate participants makes me confident that we can do this.

Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw has blogged for Startups.co.uk daily throughout London Tech Week 2018. Check out his previous blogs here.