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December 13, 2017updated 14 Dec 2017 4:37pm

Digital Skills, STEM on Khan’s hit list for London growth

The Mayor of London aims to boost London's competitiveness by optimising skills and innovation across the technology sector.

By April Slattery

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has set out his vision for growing an inclusive London economy, putting a much-welcomed focus on STEM digital skills in his Economic Development Strategy.

Unveiling his draft Strategy at the Federation of Small Business’ Winter Reception, today, Khan – who recently voiced his support over the banning of Uber from the Capital – explained how he wants to build on his manifesto pledge to be London’s most pro-business Mayor ever.

“When I stood to be the Mayor of London, I said I wanted all Londoners to have the same opportunities that this great city gave to me and my family.  This ambition is still what drives me every day as Mayor,” said Khan.

“London has many economic strengths. Yet, despite this, there are still fundamental challenges with our economy that should trouble us all.  While London is one of the richest cities in the world, far too many Londoners are unable to share in the rewards of that success.  It’s shameful that almost three in ten Londoners currently live in poverty and that the talent of many Londoners is still going to waste when, with the right support and encouragement, they could be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and senior business leaders.”

Khan put much emphasis on his commitment to ensure all Londoners reap the benefits as the capital’s economy grows. Supporting small businesses and entrepreneurship sat at the core of the Mayor’s strategy, with a new £100m SME fund planned in order to invest in growing businesses. In addition, the Mayor of London set out a series of new initiatives on the agenda in order to ensure London and its population flourishes.

It came as no surprise that technology took a leading role in the new initiatives Khan plans to roll out, with a Civic Innovation Challenge for small technology companies just one of those programmes detailed. The initiative will look to address issues on inequality, climate change and ageing population and will initially see 15 companies selected to receive targeted business support. Up to three of the selected companies will receive £15,000 to further develop their ideas.

Digital Skills, STEM on Khan’s hit list for London growth

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The focus on technology continued with Khan pledging the first Mayor’s London Scientist Programme. Offering funding for up to 5,000 pupils, the programme aims to help those pupils that are under-represented across the STEM sector to put forward projects for a national CREST award.

The Strategy also proposes working more closely with BAME communities to ensure people have the digital skills they need for today’s economy, and that they can access finance for entrepreneurial activities.

“Inequality is not inevitable.  And a fairer city can be a more productive and prosperous city.  So I am setting out my plans to create a more inclusive economy that works for all Londoners – an economy that enables everyone to reach their full potential, supports entrepreneurs and small businesses and ensures neither opportunity, nor achievement are limited by gender, race, sexuality, religion, disability or background,” said Khan.

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Natalie Campbell, Member of the London Economic Action Partnership, said: “This signals a fresh new approach to approach to economic development in the capital, one that puts inclusivity at the forefront of London’s growth ambitions. We are really excited about the new funds being made available to small businesses and the innovative Civic Innovation Challenge will demonstrate how the London Growth Hub is evolving to offer some very specific and intensive support to innovative businesses in key sectors, whilst helping improve the way things are done in the public sector”.

The strategy will be welcomed by many who are dogged by concerns regarding Brexit, with Omid Ashtari, General Manager of Citymapper and a member of the Mayor’s new Business Advisory Board saying: “With Brexit looming, businesses across London are faced with uncertainty.

“As we leave the EU, giving businesses confidence is key, which is why the Mayor’s Economic Development Strategy is such an important document. London is home to many exciting tech companies so it’s great that the Mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge will provide more entrepreneurs with opportunities to take their ideas to the next level.”

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