The question that everyone raises with me when discussing the health and future of the tech sector in London is inevitably linked to Brexit and the impact last year’s decision will have. This whole subject has been hugely debated, polls give continually conflicting views and politicians and all sides of the media continue to provide conflicting public positions and perceptions. But looking beyond the day to day tactical news and by taking a pure business approach to the situation we find ourselves in then we should look positively to the future even if many of us hadn’t wished this change of course.
France now has a new, strongly pro-European, President elect which many are seeing as a threat and many others now see as an ally, due to the 11m voters who looked to Le Pen for change. As many European leaders begin to position their home cities to become the successor to London there are a number of factors that show that rather than driving a wedge between nations, an opportunity exists to drive city to city relationships closer. London will continue to be an international city, connecting with major international capital cities around the world and closer to home European cities. It will also continue to appeal to entrepreneurs, financiers, academics and global corporate HQs as London’s success is not built purely on Europe alone.
The reasons for this are numerous and whilst passporting of financial services is a real concern, an offshoring of some of the jobs to new European HQs whilst retaining access to the talent market London offers is also a real prospect (in other words reverse passporting). But this throws up the phenomenon of where to go? Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Zurich even Brussels are all in the race to be the new London. So much competition, each with unique characteristics, not one able to replicate the breadth and depth of our capital let alone the appeal that London has and why many chose to make it their home. This is why I believe that city-to-city relationships will become more important as Europe will no longer have one truly international city and partnerships between cities will be sought and MoUs entered into. Recently the Mayors of London and Paris have done just this in promoting a joint, international focused, tourist strategy. Now apply this to wider business and the whole #LondonisOpen campaign makes sense.
Whilst Paris has in recent months presented an overt strategy to become the new London, I very much doubt that this will be the case. Red tape in starting new businesses, much publicised restrictive employment laws, a commercial language reaching a mere 50% of those who use English, high unemployment rates (25% in the under 25s) all suggest that success in replicating London would be limited. Partnering with London though would provide significant opportunity and for every city not willing to engage there are many more who will and have done so to date.
The international heritage of the Olympic Park was cemented by the nations of the world uniting for sport for both the Olympics and Paralympics. An international stage was set. This ethos flows through everything we are doing at Here East. From internationally focused companies, the universities with a large post-graduate student base the majority of whom are from overseas, through to the global product launches in our theatre most recently characterized by the successful hosting of the Samsung S8 handset reveal.
But it is the Olympic Park that set the original focus. Renewal, investment, regeneration, ambition, success, collaboration and innovation are all evident as you walk the park and surrounding area. The creation of a whole new business district off the back of London 2012 with homes, jobs, education and lifestyle engrained throughout means that the only outcome will be success for the area – just like in 2012. Could this mean that a successful Paris 2024 bid will challenge London’s success of 2012? I doubt it as the true benchmark will always be what London achieved after the Games through bold ambitious visionary projects delivered by private sector investment, drive and determination. This approach will always mean that #LondonisOpen.