London Tech Week: a dynamic showcase for a global tech capital
London Technology Laura Citron, Chief Executive of London & Partners, reveals why London Tech Week is such an important date in the international tech calendar.
Why is London Tech Week so important for the capital?
London Tech Week is Europe's largest festival of technology and the one time of year when the whole of London comes together to present itself as a global tech capital. This is Tech Week's fourth year and we've seen it snowball. It will have over 50,000 visitors and business delegates from all over the world and is now established as an important date in the international digital and tech conference calendar.
What are you particularly looking forward to this year?
The Hans Zimmer concert will be amazing! Plus, music tech is a growth area for London and we're focussing on it in a big way this year. I'm also really looking forward to Drone Racing at Alexandra Palace — the first time we've had it in the UK. Then there are the sessions, of course, especially the LeadersIn Tech Summit which has some big hitters such as Ronan Harris MD of Google, Nicolas Cary President of Blockchain and TransferWise CEO Kristo Käärmann talking about London's tech ecosystem.
What are the particular strengths of London's tech sector?
We're particularly good at using technology to transform industries in which London is already an established global leader. For example, in financial services, Fintech is a strength. In the creative industries we're very strong in ad tech, fashion tech and retail tech.
How can London best continue to grow as a global tech hub?
You can't be an island in the world of technology, so the more connected we are internationally, the stronger we'll be. It's why Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, recently announced a new business collaboration. After all, international talent and global networks are what makes London both a booming tech sector and a world-leading business capital.
What effect do you think Brexit will have on London's tech scene?
As the Mayor has said, we need to have a settlement as soon as possible to ensure that European workers who are already here can remain. They're a vital part of our skilled workforce and the tech system — and also of our society, culture and what makes London special.
How can London's reputation as a global hub best be protected?
We need to make sure that we remain a welcoming, open and diverse city. We want the world's best tech talent to come here, live here and build careers and companies here. Thankfully, when we speak to companies across Europe, the vast majority see London continuing to be the European technology capital, despite Brexit. So we're confident — but definitely not complacent.
Away from Brexit, what are the main challenges for London's tech sector?
At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, it's finding and retaining talent! Talent is what drives any global tech hub. London has more software developers than the whole metro area of San Francisco or New York City — or, in fact, any European city. So we do have a real concentration of tech talent here... but it's not enough, and we need to invest to make sure we are deepening and broadening our pool of skills.
What are the main opportunities for London's tech sector?
Apart from Fintech and creative industries technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics and big data are the fastest-growing areas in terms of venture capital, so we'd expect significant growth there. The real opportunities, though, will come from continuing to be outward-focussed, deeply international and completely inter-twined with the global tech ecosystem.
What attributes makes London’s tech sector a world leader?
It's the clusters we have across a whole diversity of industries. And we have everything here — culture, regulators and pools of capital, for example — all concentrated in a small and accessible geographical area.
What's your message to everyone attending London Tech Week 2017?
Thank you for coming — and get stuck in! Go along, get involved, ask questions, go to events and enjoy yourself. Because it's the people who attend London Tech Week that will help make it a success — and a brilliant, exciting place to be.