How the capital has become an R&D hotbed
In July 2012 Amazon announced it would be opening a new R&D centre in the capital. London would become one of its major international research centres focusing on digital media.
“London is a hotbed of tech talent and testament to that fact is Amazon choosing the capital as the location for the new global Digital Media Development Centre,” said Paula Byrne, MD of the new R&D operation.
Boris Johnson announced the project as a “vote of confidence” in London’s technology scene and a “feather in the cap” for the city.
London is poised to become a hotbed for new technologies. Many of the essential ingredients are here, a burgeoning technology scene and the financial sector to back it up.
“These technologies have been created in London because it is one of the major financial centres in the world and brings together unique talent which is difficult to find elsewhere,” says John Leslie, CTO at Markit, one of London’s leading financial information services companies and technology trailblazer.
“It brings business and technology people together and that is something very powerful. It allows for creativity and rapid innovation which has helped Markit to create a sizeable presence for itself.”
Changes to R&D tax credits in the 2013 Finance Bill are also expected to give the discovery of new technology a boost. For the first time R&D tax credits will be above the line, making them more like a grant and more accessible for companies.
This increase in new technologies is also affecting the skills market.
“The vast array of web projects going on in London has created a vortex of demand for a huge array of related skills and technologies, moving the recruiting landscape in London away from the financial sectors and representing a significant break with the past rendering the market unrecognisable from only five years ago,” says Simon Ebdon, Director at Hays, the leading recruiting expert.
“The demand for developers is constantly evolving beyond the traditional Java and Microsoft stacks – demand for LAMP Stack experts has soared along with scripting languages such as Ruby, Python, Django and Perl.
“New job titles have emerged such as Cloud Systems Engineer and DevOps Engineer that reflect the increased need to deploy cloud based SaaS, PaaS and IaaS.”
The technology landscape looks set to continue evolving but we’ve had a look at some of the existing technologies coming out of the capital.
wireWax is the world’s first taggable video tool. It’s a ground-breaking technology that allows users to add intuitive tracking tags to people and objects in video, add information, links, images and importantly dynamic applications.
wireWax secured a partnership with National Geographic through IC tomorrow, a digital innovation programme, part of the Technology Strategy Board.
The company’s made a cross-device application to synchronise video playback with the TV stream which allow viewers to interact using wireWaX.
SecondSync analyses social media conversations around TV shows to provide insights for clients in broadcast and advertising.
SecondSync partnered with Fremantle Media through the IC tomorrow Digital Innovation in Film & TV contest, with their digital solution to create real-time visualisations of social media to enable TV producers to understand and drive activity around a programme.
More than 2.7 million households in the UK don’t have access to a decent broadband connection, and 683,000 households can’t access broadband at all. Fluidata, a London-based company, has created a technology platform to give broadband access to rural areas. There is no other platform like it.
It works by connecting all the different networks across the country to all the internet service providers to create a network reaching into urban and rural areas.
CookieSmart partnered with the Royal National Institute for the Blind as part of the Digital Innovation Contest in Film & TV, to create a four button on screen remote app for the iPad and iPhone platforms for the visually impaired.
CEO of Markit Lance Uggla won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in October 2012. The financial services information company uses a number of unique technologies which have helped to make it one of London’s foremost service providers for the financial sector.
“Our customers, mainly banks and buy-side firms, send us raw data which we scrub, compile and send back to them,” says Leslie CTO at Markit. “In order to do this we built a sophisticated cleaning algorithm to help us sort through millions of data points in a matter of hours. It is programmed to recognise patterns and identify outliers and stale data.
“As part of our Solutions group, our analytics team has developed a super-fast engine that allows some of the largest financial institutions globally to run multiple risk simulations on their portfolios. It enables them to work out what kind of trading parameters they should use, the capital they need to have in reserve to cover the risks and how to optimise the use of their balance sheets.”
StickyWorld makes it easy to create and host interactive and participatory slideshows online. It combines images, videos and 360 panoramics to build a more social and interactive presentation.
“StickyWorld was awarded a ‘best of the rest’ award as part of the Digital Innovation Contest in Culture, and subsequently partnered with the Wallace Collection to create an immersive visual forum that makes better use of visual assets to drive topic related dialogue,” says Matt Sansam, programme manager, IC tomorrow.
StickyWorld was later selected to work with the Design Museum as part of the Digital Innovation in Culture Contest-2, to create a compelling digital fundraising and campaigning platform.
“These are exciting times for technology start-ups in London and across the country,” adds Sansam.
“More and more we are seeing common challenges being addressed in terms of mobile access, security, validation, verification and digital inclusion.”
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