London Technology Week: Putting London on a global stage

Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw urges businesses to keep forging ahead to keep the Capital at the forefront of global tech innovation

Speaking at this morning’s StartmeupHK seminar at Canary Wharf’s Level 39, I was reminded that London Technology Week and the championing of London’s burgeoning tech sector must not just be an inward celebration of achievements to date.

Don’t get me wrong, there is much to be celebrated – across London we have forged the third-largest tech start-up cluster in the world, while the tech sector is set to pump £12bn into the UK economy over the next 10 years and create nearly 50,000 new jobs.

But to fully capitalise on this week’s events and ensure London stays at the forefront of global tech innovation, we must be looking outwards, to new international opportunities, both East and West.

And despite tensions in recent years – both political and economic – the global marketplace is still fully alive and kicking. Groundbreaking international opportunities are there for the taking, and initiatives such as London Technology Week can instill the capital’s tech industry with the required chutzpah to seize them. To do so would cement London’s status as a world beating global digital hub – in terms of investment, exports, and talent.

How can we forge new international opportunities?

First of all, we need to attract even greater foreign investment into the UK’s tech industry. Take Klarna for example; having recently returned from Stockholm, I was delighted to see this week that the Swedish PayPal rival is planning to both invest £100m in Britain and establish a London base.

To ensure similar future deals and safeguard London’s position as a global tech investment hub, it is paramount that London’s tech business landscape be as attractive to foreign investment as it possibly can – that means competitive business rates, an abundance of capital, minimal bureaucracy, world class infrastructure and a healthy supply of outstanding talent.

Which leads me onto my second point. London’s status as a leading tech hub depends on attracting the world’s best tech innovators and thinkers; from manufacturers to engineers, coders to designers, London’s global links must be harnessed to entice the brightest and best to come here.

In December, David Cameron announced that the world’s best technology experts would be provided with fast-track visas under a new initiative to attract the best foreign talent. Tech London Advocates is working with the Home Office and Tech City UK to ensure this becomes a reality.

And to leave our mark on the global tech scene, Britain’s tech presence must continue to be felt and recognised around the world. Thanks to leading companies like ARM and leading thinkers like Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Britain is already seen as having exported both the Internet and many of the world’s computer chip designs. This is a proud tradition we must look to continue.

Embracing a culture of openness

But only with a culture of openness can London look to attract the best inward investment and talent, and export its most innovative tech creations across the globe.

Take China for example. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Britain this week provides a whole host of opportunities to develop and strengthen technological relationships with Beijing, whilst last month Vince Cable launched a Global Digital Alliance with the Chinese. The Alliance will grant UK tech companies access to Chinese markets – delivering a massive boost to UK tech exports. This is really great news!

And this openness must be underpinned by an understanding of both key foreign markets to target, and other leading tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv, to collaborate with and attract talent from. Looking outward is critical, and London does this well.

Over the last few months a number of developments have suggested that we are on the right track; last week the ICT Globalisation index, published by The Economist, found that the UK both possesses the world’s most globalised ICT sector, and is far more open to foreign direct investment into its domestic ICT sector than any other country in the world.

With even greater understanding of, and engagement with, global markets and other leading tech-hubs, London’s status as a global digital destination can only go from strength to strength.

A massive opportunity awaits. Let’s take it!

Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw will be blogging for Startups daily throughout London Tech Week. Read his first blog here

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