London Tech Week 2024 took place on 10-14 June this year. Our attendees, Daniel Lee, Robert Fett and Telha Arshad, observed some key themes throughout the event, including the UK’s robust position as an investment hub for technology; focus on AI’s transformative potential across sectors; and industry’s desire for clear governmental strategy on the facilitation and regulation of emerging technologies to continue to attract investment and stimulate innovation. In this article, they provide their key take aways from the event.

The UK’s position as an attractive jurisdiction for technology investment

At the conference, various speakers highlighted the UK’s favourable status as a hub for tech businesses, citing its vast talent pool and robust ecosystem. Clare Barclay, the CEO of Microsoft UK, pointed out that a third of Europe’s AI start-up companies are in the UK, and added “there’s an influx of investment and venture capital into the UK that’s fuelling growth”. Microsoft’s substantial investment plans clearly support this. Between 2023 and 2026, Microsoft will bring over 20,000 advanced AI GPUs to the UK and invest GBP 2.5 billion in local data centres. However, maintaining the UK’s competitiveness will necessitate ongoing human capital and infrastructure investment, and a clear policy approach to emerging technologies, including whether and how the government intends to regulate emerging technologies.

The consensus aligns with the government’s ambition to make the UK a leading destination for tech investment, as reflected in Rishi Sunak’s publication “10 ways we’re making the UK the best place for tech businesses”. Recent significant investments in British tech, such as Wayve securing over $1 billion in Series C funding in 2024 to advance AI-driven self-driving vehicles, further reinforce this narrative. Alex Kendall, the founder of Wayve, who was one of speakers at the conference, echoed the same point.

With the upcoming election, one of key questions is how AI strategy (including regulation) would be impacted by a change in government. At last year’s London Tech Week, Keir Starmer indicated that a Labour government would introduce “an overarching regulatory framework” that would be “stronger” than the current government’s approach. However, the Labour Manifesto does not suggest that a Labour Government would introduce a comprehensive cross-sectoral regulatory framework for AI akin to the EU’s AI Act, and instead indicates Labour would introduce more limited “binding regulation on the handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models”. This approach appears similar to proposals outlined in the current government’s February response  to its consultation on the AI White Paper, which said “binding requirements on developers of highly capable general-purpose AI models” were being considered.

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