By: Lizzy Chesters
Sceptics may suggest the UK’s technology sector feels the pressure of Brexit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case based on all the events, conferences, product launches, hackathons, forums and company announcements out of London Tech Week.
The capital was abuzz last week with the annual event that brings together the good and the great of the international business community for a celebration of all-things-technology.
Theresa May kicked-off the festivities with a series of investment commitments, including £153 million ($192 million) of government funding plus a £205 million ($257 million) pledge by the industry to invest in technologies such as accelerated drug development from quantum computing. May said the UK sits "on the cusp of the next great industrial revolution." She also announced the availability of 2,500 AI and data conversion courses to commence in 2020, as well as the launch of a study into tech competitiveness to identify opportunities and support for digital businesses to ensure the UK remains the most attractive place to build a technology company.
In other positive news, the UK is now home to more than 70 tech unicorns, having created more $1 billion companies every month in the last year. The figures released by TechNation and Dealroom also revealed London has the most fintech unicorns of any European city, and it has more $1 billion start-ups than San Francisco.
Here are some more stand-out highlights from this year.
Tech giants were seen and heard
In a philanthropic move, Square, the payments company co-founded by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, launched an initiative alongside The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network to enable refugee entrepreneurs to accept card and mobile payments to help get their businesses off the ground.
In addition, Facebook chose the event to announce it will open an engineering centre in London that will build tech tools designed to keep harmful content off its site. The company will create more than 500 new tech jobs, including 100 in AI, for the new hub by the end of 2019.
The future of 5G
Of course, it would be silly to think we could get through the week without someone mentioning 5G. Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright broke the silence, revealing the government will invest £40 million ($50 million) in 5G testbed and trial projects as part of plans to improve mobile connectivity across the UK. This latest investment round is through a wider £200 million ($250 million) project to test 5G technology that can support more than a million devices per square kilometre and speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G.
Fintech crosses borders
Leading UK fintech companies Monzo and Revolut rounded off the week with a couple of major announcements.
Monzo said it officially plans to expand to the U.S. (Los Angeles) led by CEO Tom Blomfield. From there, the firm will carry out its first launch events before expanding to other cities around the world.
Revolut reported it will open its public beta in Australia. A lucky 20,000 people on the waitlist will soon be able to use features such as money management and foreign exchange, with the fintech eventually offering these services to more people in the coming weeks.
With London being hailed as the global centre of fintech, it is great to see some of the country’s most promising businesses share their amazing expansion plans. The UK has solidified its well-deserved reputation as a major tech player on the global stage, and the next 12 months should be just as progressive and exciting as the last.
Lizzy Chesters is a Senior Account Manager in Allison+Partners’ London office.