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London tech manifesto calls on next mayor to support tech industry

The London tech manifesto, put together by several tech organisations, calls on the city’s next mayor to support tech companies, increase digital skills investment and tackle the lack of diversity in the sector

A group of organisations have published a London tech manifesto, calling on the next mayor of the capital to put a clear focus on technology to help the capital’s post-pandemic economic recovery and to champion digital skills, infrastructure and diversity.

The manifesto, developed by Tech London Advocates, Here East, Plexal, TechUK, Centre for London and London first, sets out a roadmap on how a new mayor can help tech companies in the capital to continue to grow and promote London as a global hub of digital excellence.

It sets out 12 policy recommendations, including investment in digital skills, championing technology companies, engaging with investors and investment in digital infrastructure.

The manifesto said that the mayor should support technology companies in helping the city’s post-Covid economic recovery.

“Since Brexit, the global pandemic took hold with the economic consequences not expected to be fully visible for a number of years to come,” the manifesto said.  

“While the mayor of London will be met by a strong and ambitious sector upon election, there remain core pressure points and questions over how technology can support London’s reopening, underpin the future of work and continue to thrive so that the sector works for everyone in the city, both economically and socially.”

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, said that while the next mayor will inherit a resilient tech sector, there is still work to be done to overcome the challenges brought by the pandemic and Brexit.

“The responsibility resting on the industry’s shoulders is greater than ever, with a city desperate for a return to economic growth, job creation and innovations that can improve the lives of UK citizens,” he said. 

“For London to continue as one of the world’s leading tech hubs, the mayor will have a unique role by working with central government and the private sector to ensure the necessary infrastructure, regulatory and legislative environment is in place for tech businesses to flourish. With more stability on the horizon, the opportunity in front of London tech and UK tech is significant – we must grab it with both hands.” 

Digital skills shortage

The manifesto added that over the recent years, entrepreneurs have found access to digital talent to be one of the greatest challenges in trying to grow their companies, and the industry struggles with job vacancies as demand outstrips supply.

“Despite the impact of Covid-19, in its 2021 report on the UK technology landscape, industry body Tech Nation reported that throughout 2020 there were 391,532 unique tech jobs advertised. Not meeting this number of vacancies has been exacerbated by a failure to address a critical lack of diversity at all levels of the tech sector,” the manifesto said.

“The mayor should introduce a comprehensive Digital Skills Strategy for London to invest in home-grown talent and to ensure that all Londoners have access to digital skills. This should include distribution of the Adult Skills Budget towards the technology sector to establish a culture of life-long learning in London.

“Public sector-led digital skills education can be supported by encouraging businesses to invest within their own training and reskilling programmes both internally and by direct engagement in the community.

“As society emerges from the pandemic, City Hall can also work with the private sector to identify areas and people that have the greatest need for support and find effective means for technology companies to contribute resources in upskilling the population as their future talent.”

The manifesto also calls on the next mayor to introduce a diversity tsar to champion diversity in technology.

“London’s tech sector is more diverse than many tech hubs around the world, but more needs to be done to create the most diverse and inclusive technology community in the world,” the manifesto said.

Investment needed

The manifesto also said that investment in the sector, particularly international investment, is needed. It called on the new mayor to instruct London & Partners to increase the number of funding trade missions, particularly targeting investors around the world, and “enshrining London’s innovation hotspots”.

“The capital needs to continue attracting growth capital from overseas,” it added. “Inward investment is another essential component of creating an environment that supports digital businesses in scaling and realising growth.

“While we look at the potential to generate growth by working with overseas partners, it should be widely acknowledged that London’s success is intrinsically linked to that of the rest of the country. Although London has unrivalled connections to tech, finance and business hubs around the world, domestically collaboration with other cities in the UK has not reached a sufficient level,” the manifesto said.

A digital capital

The next mayor must also tackle areas of digitsation in the city itself, as there is tension between the emergence of the capital as a “true smart city” and its “antiquated and over-regulated transport infrastructure”.

“The unique circumstances of the pandemic have only exacerbated this challenge. Remote working has increased connectivity requirements while social distancing has encouraged workers to avoid public transport and seek alternative methods of commuting,” the manifesto said, adding that London’s complex, multi-borough political system also creates an obstacle to implementing digital initiatives.

“The mayor, while supporting the capital’s thriving commercial landscape, must also find ways to prioritise the evolution of urban infrastructure. The answer might be to marry the two. Helpfully, much of the technology already exists in industry, but needs to be repurposed to establish London as a leading smart city,” the manifesto said.

“The mayor has a primary responsibility to use City Hall as a means to strengthen the local digital capital of London and to ensure that innovation, growth and the employment it generates affects London’s population at large.

“In practice, this means building on successes achieved to date, ensuring that the city’s digital development positively reaches all Londoners, while protecting the privacy, safety and security of citizens and enterprise alike, as we recover.”

Commenting on the manifesto, CEO of Here East, Gavin Poole, said: “London has faced many new challenges over the last year – to recover, the next mayor must represent the mayor of growth.

“Far from maintaining the status quo by prioritising the traditional financial services, London’s leader must evolve as the city does. This means remembering the lessons from the last financial crash and supporting businesses in sectors such as the creative industries and technology that will pave the way to growth and recovery.” 

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