Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, looks at the UK’s strengths when it comes to different tech verticals.
Revolut’s announcement of $250m in funding last week propelled the startup to unicorn status and rightfully placed FinTech at the heart of the news agenda. Tech companies disrupting the financial services industry have been the jewel in the crown of the UK’s booming technology industry, attracting the highest levels of investment, top talent and setting the country’s international reputation as a global tech powerhouse.
However, in order to solidify London’s reputation as a world-leading innovation centre, we need to develop a diverse range of tech expertise. For the capital to be recognised as a true hub of technological advancement across all industries, a range of specialisms need to be developed.
London must be celebrated for the level of innovation it produces across different sectors of the economy, as that is what will ultimately give it greater recognition and credibility as a dominant tech ecosystem.
Alongside the financially lucrative FinTech space, other specialisms are steadily on the rise and London is leading the charge on many fronts, with DeepTech being a field that has gained considerable recognition and market attention. A technological revolution driven by AI, machine learning, data, VR and AR is sweeping the world, and the UK is in a strong position to carve out its unique place in the global DeepTech landscape, alongside fellow tech superpowers US and China.
Whether it be due to our long-standing tradition of academic excellence in the field, or the innovation prowess demonstrated by the likes of DeepMind, Improbable and BenevolentAI, London and the whole of the UK are leading the way in shaping the technology that will define the future. DeepTech was also recognised by a third of the capital’s tech professionals in a recent Tech London Advocates survey, as the vertical set to take over the London tech scene in the next five years.
London has become a breeding ground for a number of exciting companies that are setting innovation standards on a global scale, and as we look to match the likes of Silicon Valley and the Pearl River Delta, increasing development in the DeepTech sphere will perhaps be the most crucial piece of the puzzle.
As a result of a robust investment infrastructure and a series of well-developed support networks, the capital has also begun to thrive in some less traditional verticals, perhaps none more notable than CreativeTech.
We are seeing new businesses emerge in established creative sectors, ones which are using technology to disrupt the status quo. Ranging from fashion and gaming, to advertising and design, creative industries throughout the UK have been transformed through the implementation of new and exciting technologies.
Companies like Unruly have transformed the ad industry and set new standards for video advertising, culminating in a collaboration with Silicon Valley giant YouTube, while startups like Playmob are using creative gaming methods to drive positive social change. The TLA CreativeTech 50 was launched last year to put the spotlight on London as a world-leading centre for these types of businesses.
These businesses have helped form a mature CreativeTech ecosystem by building on a well-established sector of the UK economy, and enriching it with innovation and ingenuity.
Another emerging vertical that will help to drive London’s international reputation is FoodTech. This vertical has recently risen in recognition for its ground-breaking products and services, and deservedly so. In 2017 alone, $4.8bn was invested in the sector worldwide, and it’s not just investors that are seeing its significance. With FoodTech being vital to the future of our society, its importance is perhaps even greater than the likes of FinTech and cybersecurity.
Thanks to FoodTech advances, we are seeing an increase in the efficiency of producing healthy, authentic food. Smarter farming methods from the likes of ECF Farmsystems, which reproduces the water and waste from farmed fish for vegetables; and Azotic Technologies who use natural Nitrogen to reduce agricultural pollution, are making big strides in making farming more sustainable.
The TLA FoodTech group is a vibrant part of the Tech London Advocates community, and I am always pleasantly surprised at the breadth and creativity of the startups and scaleups that are emerging in this vertical.
It is clear that the UK and London are not all about FinTech. The breadth and depth of tech innovation taking place across different industries and sectors are a testament to the country’s entrepreneurial spirit, and it all ultimately adds credibility and strength to London as a technology hub. I have not even mentioned RetailTech, HealthTech, SaaS and other sectors where London is becoming an important leader.
By setting innovation standards across different verticals, the city is at the heart of technological advancement that will define society and business for years to come. London is fast developing a mature tech ecosystem with a large mosaic of exciting innovation, and we must continue to ensure that both diverse talent and healthy levels of investment can sustain future growth in these very exciting businesses.