Let’s make London the tech capital of the world

Written by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

London is an established global leader in business services and international finance, but it is clear we are also a massive growing force in newer industries, including tech and digital.

In recent years, we have seen some brilliant companies in London that have grown quickly and become significant players on the international stage. According to the most recent EY Attractiveness Survey, we are now the second most likely city in the world to create the next big tech giant, behind only San Francisco.

This is a huge success for our city, but we cannot rest on our laurels.

If we are to stay competitive, increase productivity and make the most of opportunities for growth in the tech sector, then we can, and we should, do more.

One of the things I always hear when talking to businesses across London is that a key barrier to growth is the lack of specific skills in the London workforce. In the tech sector, the problem is usually a shortage of young Londoners with the advanced technical skills, such as coding or web design, that are required.

That’s why I’ve pledged to be the Mayor who will lead a new skills agenda for London, making sure businesses and Londoners get the skills they need to succeed.

A major part of this will be working on a new digital talent pipeline initiative, delivered by City Hall, which will invest £5m to open up new opportunities for young Londoners aged between 15 and 25 years old in digital and tech.

This will involve mapping the digital skills London needs and working in partnership with businesses to plug the talent gap. New courses and apprenticeships will be created with industry to provide young people from diverse backgrounds with cutting-edge digital skills that lead them directly into well paid jobs.

In particular, I want to ensure more girls are supported and inspired to develop tech skills, so that we can turn around the under-representation of women in tech jobs. At the moment, women make up only 17 per cent of the tech workforce in London, which is just not good enough.

So I am also joining forces with organisations like Tech London Advocates – Women in Tech and Digital Leaders so we can work together to make the tech industry much more diverse.

And my international business programme is supporting female business founders in London, which includes helping female chief executives of scale-up companies to visit Silicon Valley so that they can access new networks, meet investors and be inspired to build global businesses back home.

But this is just the start. To truly take tech to the next level in London, we will up the pace and introduce a whole host of measures.

Over the next four years I will be constantly talking to businesses to ensure they get the support they need, but my initial priorities will include improving our connectivity – making it a priority to tackle London’s “notspots” – and making sure that data and innovative tech solutions can help deliver public services more easily and efficiently.

I also plan to appoint London’s first chief digital officer to oversee this effort and to encourage growth in the sector.

Finally, with just three days to go until the EU referendum, we can’t ignore that the biggest potential barrier to the continued growth of the tech sector in London is the prospect of Britain leaving Europe.

I helped to run a business before entering politics so I know how important it is that we are part of the biggest single market in the world – with access to 500m customers. Staying in the EU will not only mean our tech companies in London, and across the country, will benefit from the EU single market, but also the completion of the digital single market, which will bring new jobs and investment to London.

That’s why a recent survey by Tech City UK found that the vast majority of tech founders and investors want the UK to remain in the EU. And that’s why not a single one of Britain’s unicorns – the tech firms valued above $1bn – is publicly in favour of a vote to leave.

I am passionate about this sector because I know that in London we have an opportunity to become the world’s number one city for tech and digital. I am determined to be the most pro-business mayor London has ever had and a big part of this will be working with startups, scale-ups, investors and creators to make sure we seize the opportunity to become the true global hub for tech. Let’s make it happen.

This article first appeared on City A.M. here.

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