After London Tech Week, what does the future hold for the industry?
It’s been a fortnight since London Tech Week offered an exhilarating glimpse into the future of UK tech and the capital’s place at the heart of the sector’s growth.
The week kicked off with the Global Leader’s Innovation Summit, which brought together policymakers, sector leaders, entrepreneurs and investors to discuss the challenges facing tech – and what the sector can do to tackle them together.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak attended to show his support for the UK’s role in this effort and officially open the week.
On Tuesday, the Climate Tech Summit brought a glimmer of positivity to the sustainability agenda, exhibiting an array of tech solutions to the challenge of net zero and sustainability. Leaders from industry, commerce and government held discussions ranging from decarbonising supply chains to clean energy’s role in a changing Europe, bearing the standard for tech as a tool for positive purpose and a vehicle for social good.
The week also brought the diversity and inclusion issues in our industry into sharp focus. I co-chaired with DCMS Secretary Nadine Dorries a roundtable to discuss practical solutions to drive greater diversity in tech, and the TLA Tech for disAbility group held a hybrid roundtable event on how to close the digital divide between people with disabilities and those without.
At present, the UK tech sector is burdened by a paradox that only greater emphasis on D&I can solve: the demographic remains mostly white and male, yet more than 100,000 vacancies need filling in the industry. So, beyond the ethical imperative to be inclusive, there is a pressing practical need to place diversity at the heart of the drive to grow our sector.
The key takeaway from this sustained focus throughout the week was that diversity and inclusion are vital prerequisites for the UK tech sector to fulfil the potential on display at London Tech Week.
A glimpse into the future of work
London showcased itself as a truly global city, with the tech sector at the core of an attractive launch pad for the world’s most exciting and innovative ventures. We heard from San Francisco-based think tank Startup Genome about London becoming the second most enticing environment for startups to grow, trailing only behind Silicon Valley.
Not only was London showcased as a cradle of innovation, but also as a hub of global connectivity. The week tech communities from across the globe – from Shenzhen to Ghana, to the West Midlands – came together to look to the future of the sector and how it can positively transform other landscapes.
In the first London Tech Week since emerging from lockdown restrictions, the future of work was understandably a hot topic. The pandemic and remote working systems that emerged have made the world smaller, with companies increasingly looking to talent from across the country and beyond borders.
No longer is an office just a physical communal space, but a place for innovation where traditional boundaries are now being challenged. In spite of Brexit and other current geopolitical difficulties, businesses can reach the hand of recruitment out to talent outside of London more effectively than ever.
The world of work is set to be revolutionised over the coming years. What might that look like?
Advancements in AI and the metaverse are coming closer to demolishing distinctions between the home and office, a trend turbocharged by the pandemic. London Tech Week provided a unique window into a future where work exists entirely online and one in which we do not even realise we are not physically together.
This felt like the biggest London Tech Week so far, and a triumphant return for the capital’s tech community after two years behind a mask.
If the success of the week is anything to go by, London is set to lead the way in tech over the coming years, not just as a space to bring together communities from across the globe, but as a hotbed of ideas and a cauldron of innovation.
Russ Shaw CBE is the founder of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates, and a regular UKTN columnist.