At the launch of London Tech Week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, outlined his vision for London to become the world's leading 'Smart City' – with digital technology and data at the heart of making the capital an even better place to live, work and invest. Khan said technology is essential to solving many of the biggest economic, social and environmental challenges we face. He called on the global tech community to help tackle issues such air pollution, housing and the future of transport.
As part of his plans, the Mayor has unveiled a new £1.6m Clean Tech Incubator called Better Futures which will help 100 London-based small businesses to deliver low-carbon and clean-tech products to tackle the causes and effects of climate change.
Better Futures will help kick start the development of a clean-tech cluster for London, developing a hub for low-carbon industries in the capital. London is already Europe's leading tech hub, attracting talent, innovation and investment from around the world. However, the Mayor wants to see the capital become the leading global city in the use of smart technologies and data to improve public services and city life. According to a recent report by IESE Centre for Globalisation and Strategy, London is already Europe's leading smart city, and is second only to New York in the global rankings.
In his speech to London's tech community, the Mayor reaffirmed his pledge to appoint London's first Chief Digital Officer (CDO). Recruitment has now begun to find the new CDO who will work with the Mayor's Office, the Mayor's Smart London Board, local authorities and the technology sector to drive the development of smart city technologies and to build London's reputation as the city that the world looks to for leadership in urban innovation.
The Mayor's Office is also currently scoping the potential for a new London Office of Technology and Innovation to provide a place where London's boroughs can come together to share best practice, build collaboration and drive solutions to the challenges they face.
Khan said: "As Mayor of this great city – the best city in the world – it fills me with pride to see our tech sector thriving. New technologies are having an enormous impact on our way of life - reshaping our societies, our economies and our culture.
"My ambition now is to harness the new technologies that are being pioneered right here to transform London into the world's leading smart city.
"The potential for cutting-edge technology to tackle a host of social, economic and environmental challenges is immeasurable. From air pollution and climate change to housing and transport, new technologies and data science will be at the heart of the long-term solutions to urban challenges."
One year on from the UK's vote to leave the EU, the Mayor will also seek to reassure the global tech community that London remains open to talent and investment from all over the world. New data from EY shows that London is Europe's leading city for foreign direct investment into the technology sector, attracting significantly more investment projects, than any other European city, in each year during the last decade. International investors also ranked London as a leading global tech hub, with London featuring in the three highest ranked cities with the potential to produce the next global tech giant.
To coincide with the launch of London Tech Week, the Mayor officially opened Plexal, Europe's newest technology innovation destination, forming Europe's biggest business innovation ecosystem at Here East. Spanning 68,000ft2, Plexal has been built on the principles of a mini City & will support 800 technology startups and global corporations from across the world.
Claire Cockerton CEO of Plexal and London Tech Week ambassador commented: "Plexal will become a truly unique innovation destination not only for London but the rest of the World. The success of London's technology sector has been built on a strong culture of collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit. At Plexal, our mission is to become the beating heart of inventive enterprise; connected, intelligent & dynamic - where people join forces, ideas spark & new business is born."
Also at today's event, the former British Paralympic gold medallists, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Lord Chris Holmes MBE, launched The Global Disability Innovation Programme, a new accelerator designed to encourage the development of technologies to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.
The programme, which is run in partnership with Plexal and UCL, will bring together disabled and able-bodies experts, users and start-ups with corporates to accelerate the development of innovative businesses and products around disability.
Entrepreneurs and start-ups on the programme will focus on the development of innovations in areas such as accessible and affordable housing, transportation and how big data and analytics can be used to have a positive impact on the lives of disabled people around the world.
Lord Chris Holmes, announced today as Chair of the Global Disability Innovation Hub said: "I am absolutely delighted to Chair the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) and to be a part of a project with such potential to transform lives. I have personally benefited from assistive technology and believe truly inclusive design not only removes barriers to disabled people but also, essentially, benefits everyone by leading to ground breaking technological solutions or applications and truly excellent design. Technology is neutral but is an incredible tool in the hands of humans and the ways in which we respond to the 4th industrial revolution and the benefits we achieve will be a measure of our civilisation. I'm looking forward to the role the GDI Hub will play in this mission, we have a brilliant team and I relish the challenge before us."
Also speaking at today's London Tech Week launch was Steven Armstrong, Group Vice President and President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Ford Motor Company.
He announced that Ford will open a dedicated Smart Mobility Innovation Office at Here East focusing on future mobility solutions for Europe.
A dedicated team of Ford specialists will work alongside world-class digital companies, leading academic institutions and existing partners as it targets the near-term commercialisation of smart mobility solutions that meet the needs of Europe's major cities.
Gavin Poole, CEO of Here East said: "The success of London's flourishing tech sector is partly due to the collaboration between entrepreneurs, established businesses, academics and policy makers. As the tech community comes together at Here East for the launch of London Tech Week, we are delighted that Ford is joining our campus as it accelerates its capabilities to develop urban mobility solutions for Europe and that Plexal, Europe's largest technology innovation destination has opened its doors."
London Tech Week is Europe's largest festival of technology. From 12th to 16th June, over 50,000 visitors will be able to enjoy hundreds of events hosted across the city.