Future City: Is London missing out on the potential of new technologies?

I will be participating in the Story of London Festival tomorrow evening (Thursday 8 October) at the British Library in a debate about London and the future of innovation.

This is very timely. Just today the EU has declared an ‘Innovation emergency’ recognising that Europe is now falling behind globally in the investment in and development of new research and its commercialisation. EU officials have stated their goal is having 3 per cent of EU gross domestic product invested in research and development by 2020 – a target that matches US president Barack Obama’s plans, although Europe has struggled to hit 2 per cent of GDP over the past decade. Even this seems extremely unambitious.

This highlights that there is now a growing understanding of the innovation crisis facing European, indeed Western States. It is this reality and its underlying causes that I intend to raise in tomorrow night’s debate which is based on the theme ‘London, Innovation and the Future’, focusing on London as a site of innovation and the value of innovation to the future of the city.

Distractions, toys vs problem solving

The publicity material for the debate states that ‘historically London has been the site of great innovations, and digital technologies are raising further our ability to innovate’. It asks some serious questions:

  • ‘Are we getting distracted by shiny new technologies and ignoring real innovation?
  • ‘Does London have the ambition and vision to harness such developments?’

As one of the co-authors of Big Potatoes: the London Manifesto for Innovation, my answers should come as no surprise: definitely ‘yes’ to the first, and definitely ‘NO’ to the second…But for my reasons, you will have to come to the debate.

This should be an interesting evening given the topic and the speakers who are participating.

Fellow speakers:
Dr Hermann Hauser, co-founder, Amadeus Capital Partners
Iain Gray, chief executive, Technology Strategy Board
Adam Hart-Davis, writer and broadcaster
Chair: David Rowan, editor, Wired UK

I look forward to seeing some of you at the British Library at 6.30pm.

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