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City comment: London needs another wave of innovation like the post-2008 boom

·2-min read
The founders of TransferWise, one of the businesses born out of the post-2008 start-up boom  (TransferWise)
The founders of TransferWise, one of the businesses born out of the post-2008 start-up boom (TransferWise)

Where are the next wave of London success stories?

Hundreds of businesses were set up in the wake of the financial crisis as laid off finance staff and other disaffected City folk decided they were better off doing it themselves. That spawned the rise of fintech, a field in which the UK has become a world leader.

I don’t yet see the same wave of dynamism in response to the recent Covid shock. People are more keen to get back on easyJet flights to the beach than try out that idea they’ve always had at the back of their mind.

We need another wave of innovation. Britain has suffered from chronically tepid productivity growth for over a decade now, leaving the economy bumbling along while tech-forward giants like the US and China shoot ahead. The only way to get out of that position is to innovate and build some national champions.

Where might the next wave of innovation come from? Developers are ploughing millions into building new high tech labs in London that can house biotech and pharmaceutical start-ups. Britain has lagged the US in this space for years but now could be the time to catch-up. In the wake of Covid, this is surely the future.

Britain’s world leading science universities such as Imperial, Oxford and Cambridge could become breeding grounds for entrepreneurs. Others may come from the likes of GSK.

Either way, London looks set to remain at the heart of the UK’s start-ups economy.

The government shouldn’t forget this. A focus on levelling up is fair but, as the Standard has argued many times before, it shouldn’t be at the expense of London. Our recovery looks febrile right now and needs support.

We also need people to get out there and take risks.

Got an idea? There’s no time like the present.

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