Infrastructure challenges hinder London’s digital growth, finds Tech London Advocates report

Broadband speeds, office space and transport links are hindering London’s digital startups, finds Tech London Advocates survey

Infrastructure issues – broadband, office space and transport links – are the biggest obstacles holding back the growth of digital startups in London, according to a report from Tech London Advocates.

According to the report – Joining the Dots: Building the Infrastructure for London Tech – broadband speeds, transport links and access to property must improve if the growth of London’s technology sector is to continue. Of those questioned, 48% said broadband speeds were damaging London’s domestic and international reputation.

Tech London Advocates is an independent network of 1,400 private-sector technology experts, professionals and investors.

The report recommends five steps to addressing London’s infrastructure needs.

“London’s ambition to become the digital city of the future is being undermined by the limitations of the past. Building on top of an ageing infrastructure system cannot support our growing digital economy and London is in danger of facing a crisis of scale,” said Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates.

“Today we are making a number of recommendations into how the private sector can accelerate the improvements, construction and development the capital needs to become a gigabyte city.”

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Startups need broadband and offices

Anthony Impey, founder of Optimity and Tech London Advocates infrastructure working group lead, said traditional service providers are continuing to build infrastructure that is not fit for purpose: “Across broadband and transport in particular, London urgently needs alternatives. This is creating a huge opportunity for tech startups using new technology to provide the type of infrastructure that will ensure that London maintains its global status.”

Nearly half (48%) of the report’s respondents said they were not confident that office space will meets the needs of London’s tech community in the next five years. Furthermore, 70% expressed concerns that their rent will increase significantly over the next three years.

James Layfield, founder of Central Working, said spiralling rent costs and rigid contracts are hampering startup growth. “We need a fundamental rethink of the way that office space is filled and used in London. The huge growth in collaborative work spaces and creative hubs across London demonstrates the need for a more supportive and flexible relationship between landlords and tenants,” he said. 

London must find space for jobs

Despite the challenges, however, 65% said they had never considered relocating their business outside London.

According to Mark Boleat, policy and resources committee chairman of City of London Corporation, broadband speeds in London are hindering the growth of the most exciting and successful businesses. 

“The digital ecosystem has proven its ability to generate jobs and investment, now the city must demonstrate its ability to house and connect the tech community,” he said.

Mark Walker, UK general manager at Zipcar, said: “Quite simply, we need to get people out of their cars and take vehicles off the road. That is the only way that space can be freed up for people to move around the city efficiently and do business.

“We shouldn’t forget that London needs to remain an attractive place to live if it is to continue bringing in the best business talent, and air quality is a big part of that.”

The report also looked at transport challenges facing London, with representatives from Gatwick, Heathrow and London City Airports discussing runway shortages and their impact on the capital’s global reputation.

Tech London Advocates unveiled the report at the biannual “Advocate” gathering at Central St Martins art school.

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