Sadiq Khan announces London small business tech scheme

Initiative will help small businesses take advantage of new technologies like AI

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced a new scheme to help small businesses engage with, and benefit from, the capital's tech industry.

Launched as part of the Mayor's Economic Development Strategy, the scheme is designed to help smaller organisations take advantage of new technologies like AI, which larger companies are already deploying.

The goal is also to address issues of income inequality, and the Mayor pointed out that although London is a very wealthy city, it is also home to some of the poorest areas in the country.

"The strategy sets out how we will work to build a more inclusive economy that works for all Londoners," Khan said. "This also means ensuring our small businesses have access to opportunities that corporates already take advantage of."

"Our great city is a global centre for innovation, from artificial intelligence to virtual reality and cybersecurity. Many large businesses are already adopting these technologies to aid productivity and competitiveness -- and we must ensure that small businesses have the opportunity to access those same benefits."

The initiative will consist of an online portal offering small businesses sector-specific advice and guidance on new technologies, including how to start procuring and using them. It also includes a forecasting tool to help small businesses quantify the financial benefits of new technology.

"It is great to see that the Mayor is standing up for businesses in London," said Sir William Sargent, CEO of digital effects firm Framestore and a member of the Mayor's Business Advisory Board. "His Economic Development Strategy will help to support businesses of all shapes and sizes as we navigate Brexit. I am also pleased that it emphasises ensuring those from less well-off communities are able to enjoy the success of the capital."

The portal will be part of the Growth Hub, the Mayor's flagship business support resource. Funded in partnership with the London Economic Action Partnership, the initiative is set to launch next year.

The scheme will be supported by the Mayor's efforts to increase digital skills throughout the capital, including his Skills for Londoners programme and a 7 million investment in training new tech talent to combat future skills shortages.

"London has a burgeoning tech scene, from artificial intelligence to virtual reality and cybersecurity," Khan said, "and through our new tech initiative, we are determined to ensure that small businesses can tap into the benefits that these new technologies offer."

"With 758 AI tech companies, London is one of the best places in the world for innovation," said CognitionX co-founder Tabitha Goldstaub, "but it can also be a complex landscape to navigate. Understanding the benefits of AI and then who to work with in order to safely adopt these new techniques is crucial. As such, I'm thrilled to see the Mayor of London is committed to democratising access to the information needed for small businesses to responsibly unlock the power of AI."

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