London Technology Week 2015 drew together a cast of characters, ideas and prototypes as diverse as the sector it represents. From robot surgeons to delivery drones, there was much to take away from five days of visionary thinking. Here’s our top ten:
The London Mayor launched LTW by opening the first ever dedicated online hub for the capital’s digital industry: “With our unrivalled mix of investors, talent and creativity it is hardly surprising that tech businesses and entrepreneurs are clamouring to be part of the incredible London tech story”, he said.
London’s prospects as a digital hub are being hurt by the capital’s lack of affordable spaces, poor broadband speeds and skills gap according to Mayoral hopeful, Tessa Jowell: “Broadband speeds are some of the worst in the country… with Westminster and the City of London at the bottom of the table”. As a result, the Olympic Park in the east, Imperial College’s new campus at White City and Croydon Tech City in the south are beginning to develop their own tech specialisms to rival the Old Street cluster.
Google is looking to tap into the growing base of so-called “silver entrepreneurs” and has launched a scheme to help people over 50 create start-ups. According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, one in five over-50s is self-employed, with the number of silver entrepreneurs estimated to hit 2 million by 2020. The pilot program will be held on Google’s London Campus and will see sessions held one morning a week over six weeks to help founders over 50 start a business.
While talent underpins London’s tech success, there needs to be a talent pipeline from the rest of the UK and elsewhere, says Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates. EY’s chief economist Mark Gregory concurs, and believes the UK’s visa system needs reassessing: the UK attracts a major share of post graduate students but rather than retaining their skills returns the majority home post study.
Barclays is pursuing technology that could see customers talk to a robot to make money transfers. “We’re very soon going to be entering a world where we may not have to be physically touching a device in order to execute transactions or to be able to engage with computers”says Derek White, chief design and digital officer at Barclays. An artificial intelligence system similar to Apple’s iPhone personal assistant, Siri could be used to facilitate transactions.
The BBC – in collaboration with biotech company This Place – has developed a prototype for people to select tv programmes on BBC’s iPlayer on-demand platform using a brainwave-reading headset. Users can turn on and operate the app by concentrating or relaxing their minds. “It’s an internal prototype designed to give our programme makers, technologists and other users an idea of how this technology might be used in future,” said Cyrus Saihan, head of business development for the BBC’s Digital division.
Martha Lane Fox, businesswoman and philanthropist reacted to research at the start of London Tech Week which showed that a quarter of the capital’s tech firms had no women on their boards. “There is a greater proportion of women in the House of Lords than British tech companies,” Lane Fox said. “Mobilising a currently unused resource will have huge benefits for the digital industry, the economy and UK plc.”
Author Philip Pullman, best-known for the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy, appealed for students to be taught the value of copyright: “The internet has given us, along with many wonderful things, the ability to steal great quantities of material that used to have to be paid for, to steal it with impunity. That ain’t right.” Pullman also criticised platforms such as Amazon who have been instrumental in making books cheaper, “But they’ve done it at terrible cost to authors by selling books so cheaply. It gives the impression that books don’t cost very much to create.”
London has increased its lead as the world’s best city for FinTech, according to research by Startupbootcamp FinTech. Founder, Nektarios Liolios, says: “London continues to combine the perfect conditions for fintech start-ups to thrive: early-stage investors, an ‘understanding’ regulator and supportive government.” Additionally, 20% of those surveyed identified ‘financial inclusion’ as the next area of FinTech innovation to watch.
£18 billion – Economic boost: Tech City UK estimates that digital technology will contribute £18 billion to London’s economy in 2015, accounting for around 5% of the total.
£3 billion – Growing investment: Since 2010, more than £3 billion has been invested within digital technology, with growth averaging more than 7.5% a year, EY said.
16.9% – European FDI Magnet: London is far ahead of other European cities in foreign direct investment into its tech sector, with the U.K. capital catching 16.9% of FDI in the 2005-14 period.
£459 million – Venture Capital Influx: In Q1 of 2015, investors pumped £459 million of venture capital into the city’s digital sector, according to Tech City UK. That’s a rise of 66% on the same quarter last year.
200,000 – Digital Jobs: According to Oxford Economics, the London digital technology sector accounts for almost 200,000 jobs – 3.5% of London’s total workforce and a 17% increase since Tech City launched in 2010.
17 – Unicorns are real: The UK has 17 startup unicorns – companies with $1 billion-plus valuations – with a cumulative value of $40.4 billion as of May. Sweden and Germany rank next.
Photo Credit: Oakstone