Last November I was in London with the Crown Princess and Prince Daniel. They visited Cambridge University, an inner-city London school, the Google Campus and Tech City in East London. It was the latter visits which inspired my Swedish counterpart in London and me to think about a follow-up event focusing on how the flourishing IT start-up communities in Stockholm and London can learn from each other.
Today, ten months later, the Embassy and SUP46 are organising a seminar entitled “Never Mind the Gap”, which we’re honoured is to be in the presence of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel.
The discussion will major on how to promote startup communities and make them even better – to contribute to the wider collaboration between Stockholm and London and more generally to growth, innovation and the new economy in Europe.
We have a range of great speakers, from companies already established in the UK and from those who I hope will be thinking about it, particularly after this week’s event! So many great IT companies have emerged out of Stockholm, and Sweden more generally, in recent years and have quickly gained a global reach. There are bound to be interesting lessons to learn for London.
Similarly, London has great advantages and strengths that we want to promote in the technology sector and more generally. East London’s Tech City – an area buzzing with creativity – was launched by our Prime Minister in 2010. This coincided with government policies such as the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, and improvements to the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Venture Capital Trust schemes – all designed to incentivise investment, particularly in the early stages.
The IT sector is critical to the UK economy. Some of the IT start-ups we see are most obviously in the “fun” areas of life – making it easier to enjoy music, or films and TV. But IT start ups are also helping transform sectors such as medicine, education and financial services. The IT sector and these communities have a direct effect on the growth of our economies, for job creation, and ultimately for European competitiveness.
It has been estimated that 20% of growth in advanced economies between 2004-2009 came from Digital Technologies related to the Internet. And in the coming years the digital sector is expected to grow seven times faster than overall European GDP.
There are of course challenges, too, which we hope the seminar will address, including having access to the necessary skills and talent, not least in cities where accommodation and the cost of living are high. We won’t solve all the problems at our seminar, but we’ll be putting new perspectives and I hope some solutions on the table.
It’s all part of the UK government’s long term agenda to ensure Britain is the most business friendly country in Europe, and to show that we are open to ideas on how to make this happen. Our UK Trade and Investment team at the Embassy would love to hear from you if you’re interested in investing or starting a business in the IT or any other sector in the UK.