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London’s tech-led creative renaissance

The UK capital, always strong in creative media, is now seeing a dramatic growth in technology-led creative startups and more. In response, Tech London Advocates has this summer launched a new creative tech working group. Belle Media chief executive Kay Hutchison explains.

hutchison,kayTechnology is disrupting the creative industries, challenging their ability to provide fast and efficient customer service. The main priority driving the creative tech scene, many argue, is the demand for innovative, effective digital tools designed to make life easier.

Indeed, the creative sector has never been stronger. According to this year’s Tech Nation report, between 2013 and 2014, 15% of all new companies formed in the UK were digital. The creative tech sector had already shown that it accounted for the largest increase in UK creative economy employment.

Overall, there are now more than 34,000 ‘digital’ companies registered in the UK and that number is expected to rise to 46,000 within the next decade.

Within that, creative technology is rapidly expanding and gaining momentum. Many sectors fall under the umbrella term ‘creative tech’. These include advertising, marketing, video, music, production and digital distribution.

One company at the forefront of the creative tech is viral video producer Unruly. An adtech company that utilises social media as a platform, Unruly uses a combination of emotional audience data and video formatting to ensure the attraction of large numbers of viewers.

By using behaviour-tracking data, Unruly is able to connect on a ‘human’ level, increasing the likelihood of viewer engagement with a video. A predictive algorithm evaluates the shareability of each video ad before its launch, meaning its viral potential can be predicted with some accuracy.

The promise to get your video ‘watched, tracked and shared’ with an audience of 1.36 billion users, accounting for 75% of the internet population, is no small guarantee. Unruly promise a formula for efficiency – and therefore a formula for success.

Yet, regardless of this steady growth and consistent flow of innovative ideas, the creative tech industry faces potential threats.

Most worryingly, the talent pipeline is drying up and fast. Some experts predict that by 2020 the UK could suffer from a shortage of 300,000 digital skilled people.

This year’s survey of Tech London Advocates backed this up, with 70% of respondents identifying shortage of talent as the main factor holding back London’s tech sector growth.

We need to resolve this issue, firstly, by ensuring that digital skills and creative skills are at the top of the education agenda.

Last year the government’s decision to make coding a compulsory part of the curriculum is definitely a step in the right direction – but more still needs to be done and there needs to be a balance in emphasis to ensure the creative aspects of education are not forgotten.

Secondly, the UK’s tech community must actively speak out against the government’s proposals to restrict visa applications for non-EU skilled migrants. Given the already limited pool of digitally skilled people, as an industry we cannot afford to add another layer barrier to success.

On top of this, creative tech needs to focus on nurturing its relationship with existing creative industries, they strength of London should be in harnessing existing creative expertise and combining it with a more data-driven approach.

The skills mix we have in London is unparalleled; harnessed positively we can make disruption an engine of growth in a sector where we already have a world-class reputation.

Just like fintech, London needs to combine two of its specialities in order to ensure it continues to host another world-beating tech vertical.

London’s finance sector was globally renowned as a financial hub. But to stay ahead of the game it adapted by harnessing its exceptional financial knowledge with technology.

The opportunity is there in creative tech and I know the sector is already showing how it is gearing up to lead the way.

Find out more about Tech London Advocates working groups at www.techlondonadvocates.org.uk/working-groups