London Tech Week: London can rival Silicon Valley, says deputy mayor

Close proximity of lawmakers, tech firms and investors 'is a recipe for success'

London's mix of government, finance and AI sectors gives it the potential to overtake San Francisco as the tech capital of the world, according to the deputy mayor of London.

Deputy mayor Rajesh Agrawal suggested that the close proximity of lawmakers, tech experts and investors gives England's capital an advantage over Silicon Valley, whose centres of power are more spread out.

"London has this unique sense," he said on stage at CogX 2018 yesterday, an AI summit put on during London Tech Week. "I always use this example: if you are in the US, New York is the finance capital, Washington DC is the seat of the government and Silicon Valley is where the tech talent exists, but in London, we have all of this in one place.

"We've got the talent, we've got a big financial sector, but also we have the seat of the government. If you want to speak to the regulators or the various government departments, they are just right here, just a tube ride away, which creates a huge strength for London."

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He made the claim a day after research commissioned by the Mayor's office found that London is Europe's AI capital, with the city boasting twice the number of AI firms based in Paris and Berlin combined.

"London is a global hub of AI and it is leading the charge in Europe and is hot on the heels of San Francisco in many areas," Agrawal said.

The research also suggested that London has a strong AI future, with what Agrawal called an "overwhelming" base of SMBs, which total 99.8% of all London's businesses and which boast an average 42% annual growth rate, nearly double the 24% global average.

"The rate at which these AI companies are growing is extraordinary," Agrawal said. "This points to a long pipeline of innovative companies trying to grow and capitalise on the opportunities that London provides."

While AI is expected to take many existing jobs, automating 1.8 million according to Gartner, the analyst firm also predicts that the technology will create 2.3 million new jobs.

CEO Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech Nation, said: "What about jobs? Isn't AI going to kill a lot of jobs? That is true in some cases, but it is going to create a lot more jobs. That is just evolution, that is just progress, we as humans have to accept that. We may not like change but that is what is going to happen."

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Citing the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2018 from San Francisco-based Startup Genome, Grech added that "London is hugely connected, which has a lot to do with the culture and the city that it is".

"Around the world, [London firms] have a deep connected tissue in terms of entrepreneurs, and [Startup Genome] found that 25% of world entrepreneurs reported significant relationships with two or more London-based entrepreneurs, which actually makes London the second-most connected ecosystem. Which is no surprise when you consider that 300 languages are actually spoken in London alone."

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