London retains title as tech capital of the world

Rishi Sunak outlined plans last March to make Britain a “science and technology superpower” by 2030

A closely-watched league table has once again named London the tech capital of the world, while Oxford and Cambridge are closing in on New York.

The Z/Yen Smart Centres Index – which ranks 79 global commercial hubs on their ability to create, develop and deploy tech – showed London remained in first place, a title it has held in the biannual ranking since overtaking New York last May.

In the latest edition, Zurich rose from fourth to topple New York from second place, which now ranks third.

Meanwhile, Oxford and Cambridge rose one and four places to fourth and fifth place respectively. The historic university cities boast some of the world’s most in-demand tech firms and research facilities.

Cambridge’s tech ecosystem now has a combined value of $191bn (£150bn), which is worth more than that of Spain and Italy combined, according to data from Dealroom.

Its players include chipmaker Arm, which has seen its shares more than double in value since floating on the Nasdaq last September with a market capitalisation of $130bn (£102bn), as well as cybersecurity company Darktrace, which is expected to join the FTSE 100 next week.

Z/Yen’s ranking may help quell fears that the UK, and London in particular, is losing ground to EU locations as a global hub for start-ups – as higher interest rates and funding costs have stymied investment and hammered valuations.

Rishi Sunak outlined plans last March to make Britain a “science and technology superpower” by 2030. Last year saw a record-breaking 51,017 new tech companies incorporated in the UK, according to audit, tax and consulting firm RSM.

Sunak touted one success story earlier this month when Wayve, an artificial intelligence start-up for autonomous driving, secured more than $1bn (£800m) in backing. The firm was founded in Cambridge but moved to London shortly afterwards.

Tech headwinds

After rising in the previous two surveys, the average rating across all of the centres in Z/Yen’s index fell by 1.31 per cent for the latest edition.

New York’s rating plunged 25 points, a decline second only to Bahrain, which fell 30 points and placed bottom of the index.

All North American centres other than Seattle saw their ratings fall, with an average drop of 1.68 per cent across the region. The average rating for Western Europe was down 0.90 per cent.

Z/Yen said continued geopolitical threats triggered by conflict and economic instability may be driving a lack of confidence in technology centres across the world.

A quarter of survey respondents identified AI, digital and computing to have the most impact on the industry over the next five years, followed by energy and environmental technology at 18 per cent and electronics, photonics and quantum technology at 17 per cent.

Lord Mayor of the City of London and Z/Yen chair Michael Mainelli said: “Commercial centres across the world continue to promote innovation in technology and science.

“Our community’s focus on artificial intelligence, electronics, and energy technology as the developments likely to have most impact on industry over the next five years show the likely continued direction of travel.”

The index was compiled using 135 factors provided by third parties, including the World Bank, OECD and the United Nations, as well as 1,661 assessments through an online questionnaire.

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