London’s digital media opportunity


James Petter, vice president and managing director of EMC UK&I, argues that London needs to focus on five key areas to succeed as a centre for digital innovation in the 21st century

Today we stand alongside our partners Deloitte, London First and Intel to launch a report that looks closely at the opportunity and challenges ahead of us as London seeks to become a hub for the digital industries. The opportunity is immense; already valued at £125bn, London’s digital industries are well placed to outperform Britain’s legacy industries and form the foundation of economic recovery and job creation, in digital media, data science, agile development and beyond.

We concur with the report’s findings that London needs to focus on five key areas in order to ensure its primacy as a worldwide centre of excellence in digital media. To take each in turn:

Brand / Identity: Around the world, rightly or wrongly, London is synonymous with its architecture, the Royal Family, black cabs, the financial services sector, bad weather and warm beer. We need to create and market a distinct digital media identity for London, demonstrating the city has the attributes, infrastructure, culture and skills to be a global centre of excellence and growth.

Skills: We face a stark skills shortage, in traditional media industries as well as in new emerging fields like data science and agile development. Industry and educational institutions need to find a way to engage and inspire today’s youth by any means. In tandem, entrepreneurs and technologists need to find a way to share skills and exchange experiences, and open their doors to young people interested in careers in technology and digital media.

Finance: Despite the large number of financial institutions based in London there is still, decades into the digital revolution, significant reticence about investing in start-ups here, and a considerable ‘funding gap’. There’s a role for government to encourage and incentivize this type of start-up financing.

Environment: London is early in its development as a ‘smart’ city. It lacks the infrastructure, innovation and consistent cultural experience that visitors to San Francisco, for example, encounter from the moment they step off the plane. With our new Aston Martin designed Routemasters and the increasing number of innovative technology and digital media events centred on London, including LeWeb and The Wired Event, as well as the Mayor’s own Global Futures events with Jimmy Wales et al during the Olympics, we will start to demonstrate London’s aspirations and capabilities to the world. But we need a consistent drive here.

Connectivity / infrastructure: Digital media industries require sophisticated digital infrastructure. The UK has long been a mid-table contender in the developed world broadband league tables, but as we vie for pole position as a hub for digital media globally we’ll need to provide a new class of services, providing 1gbp/s+ connectivity to digital media firms facing a 20x explosion in the size of their digital Universe in the next 5-7 years.

London has an opportunity here; but as the saying goes, “opportunity doesn’t knock twice.” We all need to come together to ensure that we seize the opportunity and make London a global digital media leader.

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