Innovation Manifesto for the new London Mayor

Simon HillBlog

the british flag with the London skyline and the test: Innovation Manifesto for London Mayor

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Welcome to the Mayoral hot seat, Mayor Sadiq Khan. In the run up to your election victory you vowed to “unite London and be the most pro-business mayor yet.” As a business leader in London that is obviously good to hear, and we look forward to seeing what that means in office and in practice.

One of the things you promised was to engage with business, from start-ups to multinational corporations, and to make this a central part of decision-making in City Hall. Your plan includes a Business Advisory Board made up of real experts to give valuable and honest input on policy and infrastructure planning and a full picture of the capital’s challenges.

I am happy to throw my hat into the ring if you are looking for suitable candidates for your Business Advisory Board! Being slightly presumptive, I decided in my capacity as founder and CEO of Wazoku to pull together a [draft] Innovation Manifesto to get the ball rolling and to give you a sense as to what I would bring to my new role on your Business Advisory Board (!!). It’s only a draft as over at Wazoku we believe firmly in the spirit of collaboration and co-creation but it should get the ball rolling. I am sure there will be things to add, edit or take away.

Why does London need an Innovation Manifesto?

According to Companies House Data analysed by the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE), 2015 had the highest number of new incorporations on record, signalling a potential cultural shift towards entrepreneurialism [1].

London topped the table, with over 200,000 companies created last year. Boroughs in the capital city were also featured as top areas for company creation on a per capita basis – accounting for 15 of the top 20 areas.

“While London remains unrivalled compared to the rest of the country, thanks to its better access to funding and strong entrepreneurial support, other regions are also proving their worth – especially Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham,” said Matt Smith, Director of CEF.

Not only is there competition from the wider UK for talent, funding etc., but perhaps more importantly, Mr Khan inherits a London that Innovation-cities.com ranks as ‘the most innovative city in the world’.   Beyond this, Britain was recently hailed by Ernst and Young as the fintech capital of the world, while the 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem report ranked London as the world’s sixth leading tech cluster overall. [source: http://tech.co/startups-priced-out-london-2016-03]

Our nation’s capital has been recognised frequently as the “tech capital of Europe”, it competes with New York for the title of fashion-tech capital of the world, is on its way to becoming a world-leading hub in the field of cybersecurity, and is already recognised as a world leader in Smart Cities technologies.

According to the 2016 Global Cities, Global Talent report from Deloitte, a major reason the British capital has achieved its position as a world leader in the digital economy is because the city is “the high-skills capital of the world”, employing 47 percent more high-skilled staff than the second-ranked city, New York.

An Innovation Manifesto will help to ensure that the UK and London maintain this status and, quite frankly, we have an obligation to show the rest of the world how innovation is done.

And so on to the [draft] Innovation Manifesto for London:

  1. Bring our greatest minds together in an open and transparent dialogue:

As stated above, London is the “high-skills capital of the world” but we are a very siloed bunch and as we all know, innovation works best with diversity and collaboration. How can we get the great and the good from across the London business scene innovating together on the biggest challenges and opportunities for London?

  1. Foster collaboration and interaction:

What can we do to facilitate interaction by requiring collaboration among universities and others, cultivating strong networks, shared research facilities and greater co-operation between private enterprise, entrepreneurial business, public service bodies and academic institutions for targeted creative and innovative output?

  1. Ensure London has a talent pool not just for today but for the future:

Nurturing the next generation for London and beyond; London must continue to build expertise through targeted funding of research capabilities and attracting world-class talent in strategic areas. City Hall should be both attracting talent and nurturing it into the areas of need and value for London.

  1. Provide an Environment to champion and nurture, creativity and innovation:

Housing, a core theme within the mayoral campaign, is a concern across London and beyond, but so too is ensuring we have affordable workplaces with functioning and affordable transport connections. London has thrived in part at least due to the opportunities of affordable hubs of creativity emerging in core districts within Zones 1 & 2. These areas are pricing out the next wave of entrepreneurial businesses and they are being forced further out of the city or to make compromises on their space selections. On top of this collaboration or incubation spaces are over-subscribed (and also expensive) and there is a real shortage of great space for people to come together to foster creativity and collaboration. This is something we need to work on collectively or London risks becoming a victim of its own success and the mighty can fall quickly.

  1. Embrace technology (where applicable) as an enabler but never as the solution:

Far too often we fall into the very easy trap of assuming that technology will be the quick win to help prove we are innovative, give us something to shout about, something shiny for people to play with and tech companies will, of course, market their solution as the panacea solution to your most pressing innovation needs. Show me that company and then get that founder alongside me on the Business Advisory Board. London has some incredible technology and the more we can draw on that technology, champion the tech built here and embrace it (where applicable) to foster the collaboration, processes, knowledge sharing, data etc. We need to enable innovation activities, the quicker we will see the amazing outputs the people (enabled by tech) can deliver.

  1. Listen and direct, don’t regulate and dictate.

This one requires no further elaboration.

There were over 600,000 new businesses created in the UK last year, another record year. The majority started in London. We live in an incredible city that is the envy of the world in many senses. As with everything, there are things we can do better and that is really what this Innovation Manifesto seeks to achieve in the area of innovation. We look forward to 4-years of ‘the most pro-business Mayor yet’ and hope at least some of the suggestions here are part of the many things you can foster and achieve during your term. In the words of a Londoner, we wish you loads of Friar Tuck (luck)!

[1] source: http://techcitynews.com/2016/01/13/number-of-new-uk-startups-increased-4-6-in-2015/]

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