London Tech Week – British Authorities waves flag for UK innovation…and factors finger


(Picture sourced through Rishi Sunak’s Twitter feed)

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched London Tech Week within the capital on 13 June: 5 days of occasions bringing collectively over 300 audio system and, in response to the organizers, greater than 20,000 delegates. The goal is to discover the subsequent technology of know-how innovation and easy methods to obtain impactful innovation at scale.

Sunak mentioned innovators’ success was “private” for him, as a result of he had “the privilege of residing, learning, and dealing in California” – a daring opening for a person who earlier this yr was criticized for holding a US inexperienced card whereas in Downing Avenue.

On residing within the epicentre of US tech innovation, Sunak mentioned: 

That have left a long-lasting mark on me. I lived and breathed the tradition that was adventurous, optimistic, and forward-thinking. Prepared to take dangers, to be imaginative, to construct new merchandise, companies, and companies that would change the world.

And I see that tradition right here at house, too. I’ve been travelling so much in the previous few months, proper throughout the UK. And wherever I’m going, I meet younger people who find themselves hungry, bold, unencumbered by timidity and orthodoxy.

Then he added:

The UK has Created extra tech unicorns than every other nation, bar the US and China. We’ve extraordinary, distinctive strengths in FinTech, life sciences, and inventive industries.

That is true. In line with April 2022 figures, the UK is at the moment house to 37 know-how start-ups which might be every valued at greater than $1 billion, throughout a spread of industries together with synthetic intelligence, FinTech, ecommerce, healthcare, genetics, and blockchain: greater than in all the EU.

There was extra excellent news for the UK this week. In line with the UK Digital Financial system Council – a non-statutory advisory committee based final yr, with members from IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Accenture, and others – 950 UK corporations have raised a mixed £12.4 billion ($15.1 billion) in enterprise capital funding since January. 

Greater than two thirds of that complete (£8.6 billion/$10.4 billion) was raised in London, placing the capital within the high 5 VC locations worldwide. Whereas superficially spectacular, the London-centric nature of funding isn’t such excellent news for the UK. Within the US, for instance, there are multimillion-dollar know-how start-ups in roughly 80% of US states.

Sunak continued:

Our company and capital good points tax charges are internationally aggressive. And we’re identified all over the world for our agile method to regulation, which acts, the place wanted, to deal with issues about giant, dominant gamers, whereas backing innovation.

You possibly can see that in our method to monetary regulation, the place we’ve pioneered the regulatory sandbox, Open Banking, and now, an modern framework for crypto and blockchain.

In line with April figures from the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE), half of the UK’s small companies and over 5 and a half million shoppers now use Open Banking enabled know-how and companies. That’s roughly one-fifth of the world’s Open Banking prospects.

Stagflation and innovation

The UK can be house to “4 of the world’s high 20 universities”, Sunak added. This isn’t true: it’s really house to 5; 4 are within the high 10: Oxford, ranked #2 behind MIT, Cambridge (#4), Imperial Faculty London (#7), and UCL (equal #8). The fifth is the College of Edinburgh at #16, in response to 2022 figures from Prime Universities. Hopefully, Sunak will appropriate his assertion to keep away from angering the Scots.

Then Sunak struck a extra severe be aware and mentioned: 

Maybe the largest query we face proper now’s the place our future development goes to come back from. 

The reply is innovation. Simply take a look at our historical past. During the last 50 years, innovation broadly outlined and created round half of the UK’s productiveness development. However because the monetary disaster, like many nations all over the world, our fee of innovation does appear to have slowed. However I’m assured that we are able to flip that spherical.

This was disingenuous within the excessive. Sunak can hardly declare innovation has slumped – with the implication that development has adopted go well with – when he has simply praised report funding, unicorns, and a start-up and know-how tradition second solely to the US and China. 

Stagflation is with us, and UK development has actually slowed in 2022. In Could, the Financial institution of England forecast 0.1% development within the second half of this yr – the bottom within the G7. Many economists now consider that determine to be optimistic and that the UK is at excessive threat of falling into recession. The newest figures reveal that the financial system contracted by 0.3% in April.

Apart from the cumulative impression of the pandemic, the dominant cause is obvious to many: thinktank the Centre for European Reform, for instance, has calculated that Brexit is “largely accountable” for a 5.2% shortfall in UK GDP (£31 billion/$37.7 billion). Whether or not or not that is true, it’s absurd for the Chancellor to indicate {that a} lack of innovation is knocking down the UK financial system.

Another excuse for falling development and flatlining productiveness is prone to be poor adoption of latest know-how, quite than a scarcity of innovation itself. For instance, experiences from the Worldwide Federation of Robotics ( often present that UK adoption of robotics and automation in factories and different settings is among the many lowest within the developed world. In contrast, South Korea has by far the world’s highest robotic density, and but has low human unemployment figures – roughly the identical because the UK’s, actually.

Nonetheless, Sunak added that the federal government plans to extend its personal funding in R&D by nearly 50%, placing Britain above Germany, France, Israel, Canada, Japan, and the US. Excellent news, and lengthy overdue.

The Chancellor additionally formally introduced The Way forward for Compute Assessment, an in-depth investigation of the UK’s high-performance computing wants, trailed in his Spring Assertion.

Will probably be led by main AI researcher, Zoubin Ghahramani, Professor of Info Engineering on the College of Cambridge and Vice President of Analysis at Google AI and Director of Google Mind.

Professor Ghahramani defined:

Superior compute is key to the UK’s nationwide curiosity. This evaluation will ship a long-term plan for UK compute, enabling authorities, enterprise, and academia to stay on the forefront of innovation and be ready to combat the largest challenges of this century.

Additionally launched at London Tech Week was a brand new technique for utilizing information to reshape well being and social care. 

The doc goals to offer an “overarching narrative and motion plan to deal with the present cultural, behavioural and structural obstacles within the system, with the final word purpose of getting a well being and care system that’s underpinned by high-quality and available information”, in response to an announcement from the federal government.

In the meantime, Secretary of State for Digital, Tradition, Media and Sport (DCMS), Nadine Dorries, arrived in an autonomous car to launch the UK’s newest digital technique at London Tech Week, hailing the UK as a “international tech superpower”. On 10 June, Dorries tweeted: “We can’t permit know-how to distort democracy and compromise our free and honest society”.

My take

As at all times, the UK has a lot to have fun in relation to know-how innovation, experience, ability, and entrepreneurship. In some ways our imaginative, bold innovators are succeeding regardless of the prevailing financial local weather, and never due to it.

What the British Authorities now must do is begin being trustworthy about the place different issues lie. Innovation may also help – after all it may possibly – however honesty concerning the UK’s financial self-harm, which has elevated prices and paperwork for 1000’s of companies, wants to come back first.


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