London’s credentials as a leading tech centre are firmly established. It is home to a number of global and highly-valued tech firms, who are calling on the new mayor to make improvements and help push the UK to its full tech potential. With the EU referendum and a new mayor, there is room for considerable change in the London business environment. Technology firms are relying on the next mayor to solidify plans to build the UK’s technology environment.
59.5% of technology companies claim pre-seed and seed stage capital barriers prevent them achieving their potential, whilst 43.3% say that a shortage of talent is holding them back.
Funding and Investment
The Manifesto has highlighted the importance of Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) funding to help raise money. Ensuring funding for enterprises, particularly in technology, is a national policy, however if the London mayor can improve funding opportunities, London can be the example for the rest of the country to follow.
Finance alone cannot take London tech firms to the global scene without the investment and interest from global clients. The new London mayor is being called on to use international connections and business links to develop the business opportunities for local London firms to expand globally. Trade missions need to be focused and encourage overseas funds to invest in the UK, as well as to link high-potential scale-ups to the customer who can facilitate their overseas expansion.
Technology companies have also expressed frustration that London is falling behind many other cities around the world who are experimenting with technology to become more efficient, cutting costs and reducing resource consumption. There is a call for London to provide better infrastructure to take advantage of and support technology developments. Further to this is the call for a collaborative approach to data collection; City Hall currently does not collect data from the 33 boroughs unless for statutory purposes. There have been comments that if the new mayor does not take advantage of this access to information, they could be leading blind. Some have suggested that London should follow the example of New York and create a dedicated data centre to improve public services, model policy and disaster response.
A further complaint is London’s poor broadband connection. The provision of high-speed broadband is patchy, with some users benefitting from super-fast connectivity whilst some are still working with dial-up speeds. With technology already playing an important role in day-to-day life and set to be increasingly important for the economy, it seems that investment in broadband would be wise. The need for investment in digital infrastructure is a vital part of business growth.
Additionally, the business environment is effected by the soaring price of property and living costs. For smaller businesses and start-ups the cost of renting office space is eating into their profits and makes them particularly vulnerable. The balance between being solvent and extinct is something London start-ups are acutely aware of in comparison to those in cheaper cities. The frequent inflexibility of the property market is geared towards those in more reliable, larger businesses who can easily budget for rental costs. It is the smaller, less unpredictable budgets of start-ups who struggle to rent office space and establish roots.
The London mayoral election will be held on 5 May 2016.