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7 issues set to define London’s tech future

Aerial panoramic cityscape view of London and the River Thames, England, United Kingdom

Following the conference to mark the fifth anniversary of Tech London Advocates, Glint reports on the seven upshots that may define London’s tech fortunes

  1. London is a city designed for the horse.

Numerous speakers referenced the difficulty in turning the capital into a city “fit for the flying car”. In terms of getting people around Crossrail and Crossrail 2 will help, as will the increase in capacity of the Victoria line by 40% thanks to a new signalling system. However, the lack of flat roofs in the Square Mile was of some concern as flying cars would have nowhere to land. In terms of the most tech savvy city in the world – Seoul was the envy of the central planners.

  1. How we consume is set to change.

This specifically refers to food, although many parallels can be drawn. Sue Nelson of Breakthrough Funding & FoodTech claimed London was set to lead the world in efficient consumption of food as tech changed both provision and delivery. London’s neighbourhoods are set to get “a lot more local”, lose waiters and will be well served by robots delivering takeaways.

These robots will be secure said Henry Harris-Burland of Starship Technologies whose wheeled delivery-droids have been popping up in Milton Keynes and a number of other cities. They’re safe because they’re largely ignored said Harris-Burland. Even if you do want to steal it, get it home and break through all the security codes and compartments, “you’ve still only got some milk and eggs”.

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  1. We’re in uncharted territory.

It’s Trust vs Necessity in fake news world. Facebook being asked to account for itself demonstrates how the social media giant is its own entity said City Hall’s first chief digital officer Theo Blackwall. Being both the framework and the provider means not only is it hard for Facebook to self-regulate but it’s difficult for the user to walk away – or use a competitor. Tugce Bulut of Streetbees pointed to the fact most people who’ve lost trust in Facebook still use it. Trust has to be in the product said the BBC’s Tim Davie. “Being a good guy is not enough.”

  1. Gender is still an issue.

Unsurprisingly this was never far away. Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, of STEMettes a firm aimed at getting more girls to study core science subjects at school and university, mentioned the prevalence of the gender debate. As the coal face of modernity tech needs to move on from male-dominated stereotypes. At TLA5 notably 12, of the 25 speakers scheduled, were women. What should change by 2023? Would be great if we were able to stop “stop talking about gender”.

  1. Brexit counts.

The elephant in the room for so many industries. The economic flagship of tech is set to be hit if ease of movement is lost and visa quotas for talent remains low. Given the level of growth taking place in such a competitive space human capital remains a premium, as does the synergy brought by London’s international community.

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  1. Superfast broadband arriving superslowly.

The self-proclaimed Tech Capital of Europe still lags way behind the rest of the continent when it comes to internet speeds. Investment and implementation would continue as a priority said BT’s Neil Scoresby; but he couldn’t detail reasons for the delay or give a delivery date.

  1. London is leading.

London has something to shout about. Given the wealth of intelligence and innovation on display the UK capital has reached a critical mass when it comes to bringing in talent and investment from overseas and this is despite the spectre of Brexit and a sluggish British economy. Citing the importance of tech in gearing up an economy’s growth the president of TechUK Jacqueline de Rojas CBE was defiantly bullish: “bring it on”.

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