More technology hubs are emerging across the UK as investors also look outside London for innovative companies, the Chief Executive of Microsoft UK has said.
Speaking at London Tech Week, Cindy Rose noted how cities such as Manchester, Edinburgh, Cambridge and Cardiff are emerging as major forces in the global technology sector, founded on the increasing demand for digital skills.
“We are seeing cities outside London emerging as technology centres,” she said. “I think we will see technology hubs pop up all over the country, because it’s great way to drive innovation in the sector.
“Some of the world’s most cutting-edge research – focused on machine learning and artificial intelligence – is being done in Cambridge at places like Microsoft Research. At the same time, we have a fruitful relationship with Cambridge University, providing support for PhD students through postdoctoral research positions at Microsoft Research.
“We have an ecosystem of 1,000 partners in Scotland making a huge contribution to the Scottish economy and the technology sector. Companies such as Aridhia, which is using AI and cloud technology to advance research into Alzheimer’s, and Estendio, which is helping people with learning disabilities deliver amazing speeches, are contributing significant amounts to the technology landscape in the country.”
Research from London & Partners found that the capital was the top tech hub in the UK, followed by Edinburgh and Manchester, which both specialised in the Internet of Things; Glasgow was a leader in AI, while Brighton had a large number of data companies.
Last year, the Scottish government announced the country will get the “most advanced” IoT network in the UK as part of a £6m project. The new network, called IoT Scotland, will allow the collection of data from smart devices through a wireless sensor network without the need for 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi.
Rose shared a stage at Here East in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with Manish Madhvani, founder and managing partner of private equity firm GP Bullhound, and Lawrence Jones, founder of cloud-hosting provider UKFast. All three agreed there is a great talent pool across the UK but more should be done to equip more people with digital skills required for the UK to maintain its global leadership.
“We need to get technology into schools and classrooms much earlier,” said Jones.
Rose added: “Technology changes at a staggering pace, and the most effective way to stay relevant is through continuous learning. More than 500,000 highly skilled workers will be needed to fill digital roles by 2022. That figure is three times the number of UK computer science graduates that the UK has produced over the past 10 years. Solving that problem requires collaboration between business, academia and government.
“Microsoft runs digital skills and apprenticeship programmes; we participate in consortiums between business, academic institutions and local governments designed to prepare young adults with requisite life skills – including technological – through both UA92 in Manchester and also at Bletchley Park; and we are partnering with universities to supplement higher education curriculums with computer science courses that run alongside students’ regular studies. However, the entire industry needs to lean in and play its part to solve the talent pipeline problem.”
The London Tech Week event also heard from Prime Minister Theresa May, who used her speech to praise the “thriving” tech sector that is growing across the UK.
The PM announced a £1.2 billion investment in the UK, including £153 million from Government and £205 million from industry to develop quantum computing and speed up the creation of new drugs.
May also announced that 2,500 places will be made available on AI and data conversion courses, to equip technology-driven businesses and people across the country with the skills they need. This will include 1,000 government-funded scholarships to open up opportunities for people from all backgrounds.
London Tech Week, of which Microsoft is a headline sponsor, is a series of events held across the capital every year that celebrate UK’s technology sector.