The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Posts Tagged ‘UKTI’

IT Startup communities in Stockholm and London: Never Mind the Gap

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

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.

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Green Deal and greener dealing

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Last week, two notable “green” events came to my attention.

First, the UK government launched The Green Deal.

This encourages property owners to make energy-saving improvements by allowing them to off-set costs against reductions in their bills. In other words, you can now pay for the the improvements over time on your electricity bill, rather than having to find the money up front. The typical household’s monthly saving on energy costs is expected to be more than the cost of the monthly repayments.

This programme is expected to:

• Boost the low carbon economy through the creation of up to 60,000 jobs in the insulation sector alone by 2015

• Provide new financing opportunities for consumers

• Enable businesses to better compete for energy efficiency opportunities; and

• Open up the energy efficiency market to new consumers and producers.

The Green Deal should also provide significant further opportunities for Swedish business to invest in the UK energy sector. Our UKTI team (Jenny Gardner and Daniel Nutley in the Embassy) can provide more information.

Also last week, the Sustainable Fashion Academy in Sweden gave its Global Leadership Award for Sustainable Apparel to the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the UK non-profit organization, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The Award aims to identify and share best practice in order to accelerate sustainability within the clothing and fashion industry. DEFRA and WRAP were recognised for their leadership in demonstrating the role of government in ensuring the clothing and fashion industries respond successfully to global trends – particularly, environmental and social challenges.

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Beach volleyball and business

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

There is probably only one respect in which I may regret coming to Sweden this summer.

That’s because in my old job in the Foreign Office in London I had an office overlooking St James’ Park and Horse Guards Parade.

Every Spring Horse Guards Parade is full of military bands practicing for the annual military parade that takes place to mark the Queen’s official birthday. So office workers like me were treated to free concerts most mornings in May and June.

That itself, I would not miss too much. But next August the spectacle will be even more amazing. The Olympics beach volleyball tournament will be taking place there.

So my one small regret about being here rather than there is that I would have had a front-row seat for a spectacular piece of sporting theatre, against a great historic backdrop, including the Old Admiralty building, from which messages used to go out to Nelson’s fleet in battles against Napoleon.

The Olympics and Paralympics in London next summer will be an amazing expression of the universality of sport.  Not quite an A-Z of competition, but an A to W, from Athletics, Aquatics and Archery to Weightlifting and Wrestling. 26 sports in total and 20 sports in the Paralympics just a few weeks later.

The Paralympics originated in the UK. The first took place at the world famous Stoke Mandeville hospital, to coincide with the 1948 London games. They were inspired by the idea of helping rehabilitate soldiers and other athletes who had come back from battle with spinal injuries. Since 1976 they have been open to athletes with different disabilities and in London next year for the first time the Olympics and Paralympics will be fully integrated.

Some of the UK’s most iconic sporting venues will be used: Wimbledon for Tennis, Lord’s Cricket Ground for Archery, Old Trafford for Football, Greenwich for Equestrian events.

But the Games  will also see the construction of amazing new stadia, accommodation and infrastructure in the East of London, much of which will be retained and developed for the local community and local business

Sustainable business growth was a big theme of our Olympic bid.  The UK will be hosting not just athletes but Heads of State and Government and Heads of international companies from around the world during the Games next year.

So we’re working with UK Trade and Investment, the Government department responsible for encouraging UK exports and investment into the UK. The Government will be hosting a Global Investment Conference bringing together CEOs from around the world and “sector summits”, exploring challenges and opportunities in ICT, energy, infrastructure, etc.

I had the pleasure this week of hosting in the Embassy two Managing Directors of UKTI, along with UKTI teams from across the Nordic region. If you’re keen to learn more about the opportunities the UK and the Olympics in particular could offer your business here in Sweden, do get in touch with our UKTI team, via the Embassy website.

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Sweden’s first PPP building

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Sir Andrew Cahn, Chief Executive of UK Trade and Investment, has been in Stockholm today. Andrew is responsible for the British Government’s efforts to stimulate inward investment into the UK. UKTI also supports British companies that want to do business abroad. As part of Andrew’s visit we visited the site of the new Karolinska Teaching hospital project in Stockholm.

It’s an impressive sight. The development borders the site of the current Karolinska, one of the world’s best teaching hospitals, and extends across an area half a kilometre long by half a kilometre wide. It is now crawling with diggers and trucks as the process of blasting the granite bedrock and carting away the debris gets under way.

It is also a project with a strongly British-Swedish feel, a partnership between British investment fund Innisfree and Swedish construction company Skanska, but with major input from Skanska in the UK. This is because the project is so big. In fact it’s Skanska’s largest project ever. It’s also the world’s largest hospital project built with public-private (PPP) funding. And it’s also Sweden’s first PPP building. The construction contract for the new Karolinska hospital will be worth $2 billion for Skanska alone, making this the construction firm’s biggest ever deal.

The new university hospital has appropriately big ambitions, not the least of which is to become an internationally competitive university medical hub and to drive the transformation of the Stockholm region into a leading bio-medical centre. As we push for economic growth in a highly competitive global market this combination of bio-medical excellence and expertise in innovative construction will be part of the recipe for success. But so will innovative financing, particularly because partnership between public and private sectors allow for cost management and effective risk transfer. This partnership may be a first here in Sweden but I suspect that it is a model that we will see more of. Keep an eye on our Flickr page to see pictures from Sir Andrew’s visit.

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