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IBM chief: London Tech Week a chance for the UK to get a lead on AI

London Tech Week could attract as many as 45,000 over the whole week, when fringe events will also take place. (Image: London Tech Week)
London Tech Week could attract as many as 45,000 over the whole week, when fringe events will also take place. (Image: London Tech Week)

London Tech Week is a prime opportunity for the UK to maintain its global leadership in artificial intelligence, the chief executive of IBM UK has said.

Nicola Hodson, who is speaking at the Kensington-based event this morning, told City A.M. she is looking forward to seeing “real life AI in action”, amid the significant “hype and expectations” surrounding the technology.

“Obviously it’s a fantastic opportunity to network among big tech, startups and scale ups from many, many countries,” she said, “and a fantastic opportunity for the UK to be centre stage.”

London Tech Week kicks off today and is expected to double in size compared to last year due to “tremendous interest,” according to organisers. The event could attract as many as 45,000 over the whole week, when fringe events will also take place.

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Hodson will join technology leaders from Natwest and WPP to discuss how AI is being used in business and the public sector. Other speakers at London Tech Week include top bosses from Microsoft UK, Google Deepmind, Mastercard, Monzo and Darktrace.

Hodson, who has led IBM’s UK division since January 2023, is bullish on the potential of AI and believes the UK’s approach to regulating the rapidly evolving technology is “smart”.

Although the UK currently ranks third in the world for tech, behind the US and China, Hodson outlined three key areas where the next government must support tech companies to “accelerate” growth.

“Number one is to drive economic growth,” she said. “Number two, we need to make sure that we’re helping our startups to become scale-ups, and we’re making the UK an attractive place for big companies like IBM to invest.

“And then number three, it means we’ve got to pick some winners in terms of technology, like AI, maybe quantum. And really then put our wood behind the arrow in terms of building skills so that we can stay at the top and make the most of the growth,” she added.

Last year, attendees of London Tech Week heard from top political figures such as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Labour leader Keir Starmer.