London Technology Week Kicks Off

News Article - Tuesday, 17 June 2014 12:18

By: Kerry Butters Category: Connectivity

The first ever London Technology Week launched in the UK capital this week with an Oxford Economics report claiming that there are 34,000 technology businesses already in the city.

The report forecasts that this will climb by another 11,000 in the next ten years, creating 46,000 new jobs.

The event itself was launched by mayor Boris Johnson, alongside the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz. It’s intended to boost the reputation of London as a "technology cluster.”

However, despite the hype, the launch has come in for some criticism with some publications claiming that much is being made out of tech firms that didn’t actually begin in the capital.

"The problem is that each event like this – and there are a lot – comes with a new set of bombastic figures and extravagant claims that undermine the quiet, hard work being done by a lot of entrepreneurs,” said Tom Cheshire , Technology Correspondent, Sky News.

This appears to be due to the claims made by the above report and an address made by Joanna Shields, a former Bebo and Facebook executive, who said that the growth in tech sector jobs – 27% in the past three years – "was responsible for pulling the UK out of recession”.

This somewhat grandiose claim is almost certainly incorrect and does appear to reinforce the view of many that the claims surrounding London’s success so far in the technology industry are somewhat overblown.

Mr Cheshire went on to point out that many of the 97 technology firms listed in the ‘At a Glance’ publication for the event pushed the definition of what a tech firm actually is. Whilst the pamphlet does include some of the UK’s most exciting start-ups, of the 97 firms listed, only 32 are actually based in the UK.

"It’s depressing, because fudging the number like this only makes people suspicious of London’s tech scene, and London Tech Week itself, which has a number of very good events,” he added.

Boris Johnson was asked at the launch event if he considered the figures to be "overly optimistic” and responded: "There is no reason for hubris when you consider that… we haven't yet produced the kind of knockout multi-billion pound businesses that we see in Silicon Valley."

There does seem to be a tendency toward splitting hairs in this debate though, with some claiming that the success of ARM, the microprocessor designer, could not be attributed to the capital as the company had its beginnings in Cambridge, not London itself.

However, the excitement surrounding "London as a technology superstar” does help to draw fresh talent and successful companies such as Sweden’s Klarna and Swiftkey, also of Cambridge, to the capital, according to the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones .

He goes on to caution against becoming over-excited about London’s tech scene, pointing out that in 2012 The British Venture Capital Association figures showed that just £681m was invested in the sector across the whole of the UK.

When you compare this to the recent funding received by San Francisco start-up Uber, which received $1.2bn (£700m), it does seem that London has a way to go yet before it’s matching the financing that Silicon Valley start-ups tend to attract.

London Technology Week runs until 20 June and plays host to numerous events such as talks on big data, education, app promotion, intellectual property and much more. For more information on all of the events taking place over the course of the week, visit the website .

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