IS LONDON OVERTAKING SILICON VALLEY AS THE WORLD’S NEW TECHNOLOGY HUB?
The spotlight was on the capital’s technology industry last month during the first London Technology Week. According to a recent report by South Mountain Economics, “the technology and information sector in London and the south-east is growing faster than in California, with 382,000 people working in computing, gaming, telecoms, film and media”. Indeed, in the run up to London Technology Week, Boris Johnson unveiled his plans to make London the tech capital of the world, claiming “there is nowhere to rival London for tech firms to thrive and grow – we have the talent, the investors, and the entrepreneurial spirit.” The area around Old Street in London, which has seen the most innovation and growth of tech startups, has been nicknamed Silicon Roundabout.
Tom Symonds, CEO of London-based edtech company Immerse Learning, spoke at AGC Partners’ London Technology Growth Conference during London Technology Week on the future of the European SaaS market and comparisons with the US market.
London is certainly expanding its tech centre but can it rival Silicon Valley as the world’s tech hub?
London is already a global leader when it comes to financial technology – or fintech. In 2013, a survey by Startupbootcamp named the UK capital the world’s leading fintech centre (with 56% of the votes) ahead of New York, San Francisco and Singapore. According to Michael Kent, founder of international money transfer start-up Azimo, London is the “best place in the world” to start a fintech business with its wealth of experience and talent in both the financial and technology sectors and its role as a ‘gateway to Europe’ for much of the world.
But it’s not just fintech that London is becoming renowned for. The city is a hub of innovative technology startups. As a recent Guardian article highlighted, “When it comes to games played on mobiles and tablets, Europe is already a bigger force than Silicon Valley, with the creators of Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans and Minecraft all hailing from Britain and the Nordic countries.” What’s more, it looks like the London tech industry is growing at a faster pace than Silicon Valley. According to South Mountain Economics’ report, “London: Digital city on the rise”, the technology industry in London is growing faster than in Silicon Valley.
What’s even more impressive is that London’s digital technology sector is set to grow by 5.1% a year over the next decade, resulting in £12 billion ($20 billion) of economic growth and 46,000 new jobs.
However, unlike its counterpart across the pond, the capital of the UK has not yet produced a multi-billion pound tech company to rival the likes of Google, Facebook or Amazon. Although a hotbed of innovative startups, it seems that London still has some catching up to do in order to rival Silicon Valley on the bigger technology stage. Gerard Grech, CEO of London-based Tech City, suggests that London should combine with other tech hubs in the UK, such as Newcastle, Manchester and Southampton to compete with Silicon Valley.
Either way you look at it, London is becoming more prominent on the global technology scene. It may not have equalled the commercial success of Silicon Valley yet, but as a centre of creative and technological innovation, London is certainly putting itself on the map.