The UK has embarked on a “global race for tech talent” as it looks to position itself as a leader in the global start-up ecosystem, according to the new CEO of Tech City UK Gerard Grech.
Speaking at a Microsoft Ventures event in London yesterday, Grech, who took up his role as CEO from Joanna Shields on 3 February, said Tech City is focused on making the UK a “pioneer” and world-class, leading country when it comes to “digital competitiveness".
He applauded the work of Microsoft Ventures and its start-up accelerator programme, which culminated yesterday in the final stage of its first accelerator programme in London.
The programme, which launched last September, involved hundreds of start-ups pitching from around the world, resulting in 12 finalists from countries including Pakistan, the UK and Ireland, and Spain.
“I’m delighted Microsoft Ventures is making this commitment in London, but not just London – Microsoft is based in Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh – it is truly UK wide.
“We need programmes like this to ensure any entrepreneur that has the drive and hunger has a support system in place.”
The UK is particularly strong in e-commerce companies, making retail a major space for start-ups, as demonstrated by Microsoft’s teaming up with ASOS and driving support for retail start-ups and its partnership with Canary Wharf-based fintech accelerator space Level39. This will see Microsoft dedicate funds and its own staff to helping start-ups in this accelerator scheme.
Grech added that Tech City has become an advisor to the Home Office on tech talent, with the view to ensuring the country is attracting the “best brains” to come here from around the world.
“In the last three months Just Eat and Ao.com listed on the London stock exchange for north of a billion – which just shows you needn’t look further than here – it’s a great time to be a start-up in the UK,” added Grech.
Eric Van der Kleij, head of Level39, said: "Welcoming Microsoft to Level39 is an important step in our ambition to attract some of the biggest technology players to become integrated into the very fabric of the Canary Wharf technology cluster and growth opportunities, and our becoming part of the exclusive international network of ‘Bizspark Plus’ hubs is a terrific boost to our second year strategy, which is to become acknowledged for the vision and calibre internationally.”
Microsoft has now opened up applications for its second Accelerator in London, which will begin in September. It is calling specifically for start-ups that are striving to break ground in cloud, big data, mobile, social, e-commerce, retail and games to apply.