London Tech Week (LTW) came to our city this week with a hybrid offer: allowing people across industries to tune-in online or book their physical spot at any of the dozens of headline and fringe events. In this sense, the festival itself this year is emblematic of the digital transformation that the pandemic has triggered, which now allows many of us to enjoy the normality of in-person events once again, whilst not sacrificing the inclusiveness that allows interested parties to attend virtually from across the globe.
With the festival now drawing to a close, we’ve summarised four of the key headlines that caught our eye.
Tech Week marked newly appointed Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ first public speech in the role. She used her keynote speech on Monday to reiterate the UK government’s digital regulation ambitions, which aim to actively promote innovation, achieve forward-looking and coherent outcomes, and exploit opportunities and address challenges in the international arena. She pointed towards the record-breaking recent success of British tech start-ups, which has seen the UK economy produce 20 new unicorns – billion dollar tech companies – in the first six months of 2021 already. She also called out the regional successes of the digital economy: fintech growth in Scotland and Wales, cyber security hotspots in Northern Ireland and the South West, healthtech growth in the East Midlands and space tech innovation in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Here at MTM we pride ourselves on being a global agency that works worldwide for our clients. However, we do always feel a special sense of pride when we see London as a world leader. The capital sits behind only Silicon Valley and New York for the value of its tech start-up industry and venture capital investment. According to the latest StartupGenome report, released to coincide with LTW, London benefits from its access to deeper pools of capital and talent and larger networks of investors, making it the only European city to make the global top 10.
On Wednesday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched its new strategy to position the UK as “the best place to live and work with AI”. The strategy is expected to boost corporate adoption of AI technologies, build the national AI skills base and attract international investments in the space, through the launch of a new national programme and approach to support research and development, as well as initiatives such as the Turing Fellowships Programme, Centres for Doctoral Training and postgraduate industrial masters and conversion courses to support skills. There are also plans to support the National Centre for Computing Education to ensure broader access to AI programmes for children, ensuring that the next generation grows up fluent in the benefits of AI.
As the digital transformation thrust our technological development 10 years into the future during the pandemic, questions now arise as to how to equip the workforce for this rapid innovation, and ensure that no one is left behind. Currently the UK faces a ‘data skills shortage’ to the magnitude of up to 234,000 vacant jobs. Digital inclusivity is about championing underserved groups in technology and creative positive movements for change, through gender, race, social mobility, and assistive tech. Thursday saw an empowering talk from accelerateHER, which spotlit the most exciting women founders and tech leaders, and ran this year’s Inspiring Fifty initiative, which recognises female role models in tech and gives them a platform to increase their visibility.
London Tech Week highlights a firm commitment by the government, educational bodies, and the commercial world to be at the forefront of the digital age. So far, this commitment and the foundations set in London and across the UK have been fruitful. However, as we have seen, there will be challenges to confront along the way to ensure the UK can deliver on these ambitious plans.