New Tech City CMO believes UK start-ups can lead global path with Internet of Things

The UK start-up community is well placed to become a global leader in the Internet of Things landscape, according to Tech City UK’s first chief marketing officer Katy Turner.

Speaking to The Drum following her appointment, Turner said Tech City will focus on helping cultivate start-ups in this area, and the coming together of hardware and software firms that are driving the next wave of innovation in the Internet of Things.

It has already started on this route, having paired with the Technology Strategy Board to release a £1m European grant fund to encourage entrepreneurs to build internet of things-based services. The competition, unveiled in March, is open to the cluster of companies in the London and Cambridge areas for the time being, and is due to go live imminently.

“Increasingly we will be looking at how we can support companies in the coming together of hardware and software in the Internet of Things arena. The democratisation of hardware and our increasing expertise in software in terms of the skills we have in this country, will mean we are very well placed to build some fantastic businesses in that space.

“In this country we have a heritage of building some great hardware companies too, so the UK has every opportunity to really be a leader in this space – combining skills and expertise in hard and software. We want to help knit those communities together,” she said.

Turner, who was previously VP of marketing for Videoplaza and prior to that spent eight years at Orange, said Tech City is also preparing to ramp up its focus on recruiting next-generation technology entrepreneurs – a factor that is critical to ensuring the current and future UK start-up scene has the talent to remain at the forefront of innovation.

Coding is due to appear on the school curriculum from September, but there are other areas in which there are skills gaps which Tech City is looking to fill in, according to Turner.

It is supporting the education space through initiatives such as Connecting Tech City, developed by the Centre for London, aimed at connecting young people to tech companies and jobs, and will look to grow its efforts in the education space even further.

Details are yet to be confirmed but focus will likely be on driving skills development in areas such as how to commercialise building a digital business.

The move forms part of its overall strategy to change the image of start-ups and entrepreneurs to the average school leaver, and show alternatives to the more traditional route of attending university straight after school and later joining a major corporate company, according to Turner.

The government-funded body, first established in 2012 to help nurture the budding London tech start-up scene, and adopting the name Silicon Roundabout, has since been on a mission to widen its focus to envelop the rest of the UK.

This part of the strategy has been driven heavily by former CEO and current chairman Joanna Shields, and remains a major area of focus for the coming year.

To cope with its growth ambitions it has also recruited Lisa Chadwick as head of partnerships and is planning to hire a head of entrepreneur relations.

Chadwick, who started this week, will focus on developing a framework of both private and public partnerships that will bring benefits to start-ups to drive value including making them more visible to potential investors. She will also focus on creating an ecosystem through which start-ups can collaborate with each other and major corporates looking to partner with start-up entrepreneurs.

She agreed with Turner that encouraging the younger generations to enter the start-up scene is a critical part of the UK’s future.

“A lot of the challenges start-ups face are recruiting good people. We want to challenge graduates and school leavers’ opinions that a start-up is an viable and exciting option as a career,” she told the Drum.

Turner is now looking to recruit a marketing team to help her drive the body's agenda.

Last month Tech City CEO Gerard Grech said the UK is in a global race for tech talent.

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