Technology has become such an integral part of the way that we live our lives, it is understandable that cities all over the world are striving to become headquarters for technological innovation. London is already making great strides in this regard, with its Silicon Roundabout area rightly recognised as an industry leading tech hub.
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With more than 350,000 Londoners now employed in digital businesses, the UK capital was recently hailed as the tech centre of Europe. However, in global terms, the city still has work to do. Overtaking the likes of Silicon Valley and New York, while holding off the challenge of rapidly growing Asian tech hubs such as Singapore, will not be easy, so London will have to make the most of its resources if it is to become the tech hub of the world.
One of the first areas that London must address if it is to improve its world standing is in terms of recruitment. There is a notable skills gap that must be addressed if tech firms are to have access to the talent required to succeed. A recent survey found that 77 per cent of the capital’s technology startups believe that they could achieve faster growth if they had access to staff with better skills. Clearly, the demand for talented individuals is there, but the supply is not. Fortunately, efforts are being made to close the skills gap by placing stronger emphasis on coding in schools and launching free online training programmes like Tech City UK’s Digital Business Academy.
There is a notable skills gap that must be addressed
Even if London is able to improve its access to employee talent, it must ensure that it can match it with world class network infrastructure. Parts of the city still suffer from connectivity issues, with the government prevented from direct investment due to competition laws. Slow broadband speeds and lack of access to mobile Internet is hugely damaging to workplace productivity and means that organisations may find it difficult to access some of the more bandwidth intensive applications. Although projects like the government’s Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme have been successful, more still needs to be done. London cannot become a world-leading tech hub, if it does not have access to world-leading broadband speeds.
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One of the key components of a successful tech hub is a thriving startup community. However in London fledgling businesses are often up against it due to high costs of living, transport and renting office space. Company budgets are already stretched thin, with firms having to manage growth, marketing, recruitment and all other business aspects with a small team. For many businesses, London’s high rents are the final in the coffin, particularly given the high concentration of more established competitors based in the capital.
Culturally, London and the UK as a whole will need to shake off its image of being overly sceptical and afraid of taking risks. The most successful tech hubs are known for embracing cutting-edge, and often disruptive, innovations and so there is no time for inhibitions or caution. This reputation is already shifting thanks to the entrepreneurial efforts of Silicon Roundabout and greater financial support for startups. If London carries on this vein, it should receive further recognition as a truly global tech hub.
If London carries on this vein, it should receive further recognition as a truly global tech hub
However, perhaps the best way for London to secure its position as a worldwide hub of technological innovation is for businesses, old and new, to work together. Cross-industry support can help keep innovative ideas from fading into obscurity and boost the local economy. For example, the zsah Cloud Startup Program provides young businesses with powerful cloud infrastructure that is rapidly scalable and available on a pay-what-you-use basis. There are also a number of agile new firms providing marketing, accountancy and other services at much more flexible and affordable rates. It is vital that startups realise this and make use of their fellow companies. A thriving tech hub benefits all of London’s businesses, enabling each and everyone of them to share in the benefits of local success. If London is to become the tech hub of the world, it will need the government and private industries to work together to overcome international competition.