PM opens event

Tech firms head south for funds after EIE pulled

Rishi Sunak: ‘huge opportunity’

Technology companies are vying for a share of £100 billion of investment at the UK’s largest tech event which has taken on extra significance following the cancellation of this year’s EIE showcase in Scotland.

Ten Scottish companies are among those looking for backing at the 10th London Tech Week. Fintech, artificial intelligence and life sciences are among the target sectors.

There is heightened interest from Asia-Pacific investors at this year’s event following the recent signing of a trade deal with the region.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak opened proceedings by calling it a “huge opportunity” for the UK to play a leading part in a changing economy.

“We are an island of innovation. But at a moment like this, when the tectonic plates of technology are shifting – not just in AI, but in quantum, synthetic biology, semiconductors, and much more – we cannot rest, satisfied with where we stand,” he said.

“We must act – and act quickly – if we want not only to retain our position as one of the world’s tech capitals but to go even further and make this the best country in the world to start, grow, and invest in tech businesses. That is my goal.

“And I feel a sense of urgency and responsibility to make sure that we seize it, because one of my five priorities is to grow our economy. And the more we innovate, the more we grow.”

He noted that the UK has created 134 unicorns in the last decade – third in the world, behind only the US and China – and the UK is the favoured place in Europe to raise capital with more invested in tech in the UK than in France and Germany combined.

The event comes just weeks after Daily Business revealed that organisers of Scotland’s EIE pitching event decided not to go ahead this year. There was no reason given, though a slowing of investor activity has been noted.

KPMG’s most recent Venture Pulse report has indicated that venture capital funding in the UK has declined by 76% for the first quarter of 2023 compared to Q1 in 2022, with only 402 deals captured in the data. The climate for investment into small businesses in the UK is therefore proving particularly challenging.

However,  Henry Whorwood, head of research at data platform Beauhurst says that after the the “frothy days” of 2021, which drove UK VCs to deploy their funds faster, they’re now pausing investment to get back on track.

“The UK is a victim of its own success. More of the frothiest activity in Europe happened in the UK, so it had further to fall. It means our sober period now has to be a bit deeper.” 

Another late-stage VC said: “Lots of our companies haven’t come [back to the market in 2023] because they were so well funded in 2021. “It’s not a case of people not wanting to invest in the UK. It’s more a case of startups not wanting to raise with low valuations.”

IBM’s global “tech talent scout” Deborah Magid, a regular at the EIE event, has expressed disappointment EIE is not being staged.

Ms Magid attended EIE ten years in a row. “There is a reason I came back every year,” she told Daily Business from her base in California. “Everything about the event is extremely well done. It’s vibrant and very much hands-on in terms of everyone who attends. From the way they coach the companies. Right down to the small details.”

For Ms Magid, Edinburgh is ranked in an elite list of academic institutions alongside MIT, Stanford and Berkeley.

She thinks Scotland’s tech effort has responded well to key shifts in the marketplace and is keen to see EIE return.

“I know it was a lot of work but it was so worthwhile for everyone there. I hope they really go live next year,” she said.

Scottish companies pitching at London Tech Week:

  • arbnco (Glasgow)
  • CCU International (Aberdeen)
  • Global Surface Intelligence (Edinburgh)
  • Krucial (Glasgow)
  • Intelligent Growth Solutions (Edinburgh)
  • iOPt (Glasgow)
  • Reath (Edinburgh)
  • Topolytics (Edinburgh)
  • Trade in Space (Edinburgh)
  • Trojan Energy (Aberdeen)

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