Develop Croydon: tech sector roundtable roundup

Read a report on local industry leaders' recommendations for promoting and protecting Croydon's tech sector.

At Develop Croydon’s recent roundtable event, leading figures in Croydon’s tech sector called for action to ensure growth continues post-COVID-19 – with a focus on increasing the skills provision and flexibility from landlords in the wake of the pandemic. They examined how COVID-19 impacted Croydon’s tech sector, how Croydon could entice and support growth, and how to meet needs locally.

In the past five years, Croydon’s tech sector has grown by 41% and it now employs more than 8,000 people. In 2018/19 alone, there were 2,450 start-ups in the borough – which itself is a top 10 start-up destination, according to research by UHY Hacker Young.

Vanessa Clark, Founder of Sinclair Clark, said: “The pandemic accelerated trends already taking place so almost overnight the normal office world has been catapulted into what the tech world was already experiencing, for example, working from home was not a new trend, innovators often start at home, and then gradually move into space that they can afford.

“For the office world, it’s slow, with an awful lot of space coming back to the market, and a lot of occupiers still struggling with what they do, whether it’s a hybrid model, or how they cope as they come out of the pandemic.”

Looking at attracting new tech companies to Croydon, the group agreed a hybrid model would be preferred going forward and that cultural and leisure opportunities were as important as skills and office space in being able to attract people to Croydon.

Marcus Chidgey, CEO of Loqiva, said: “I think it would be great to see Croydon specialising in particular sub-sectors, such as the booming sectors like mobility and IoT, and also a framework in place for technology change, collaborative technologies and micro services to have a hub to create those ecosystems and build the reputation of Croydon.”

An importance on the skills provision for the sector and how it could be met locally was also brought up during the round table discussion. Dr Vijak Haddadi, Digital Innovation Lead at London South Bank University (LSBU) discussed their ambitions to grow a strong digital skills provision in the borough. He said: “We want to bring in employers, have a multi-stakeholder community approach, so employers and students together have their input in a kind of very agile, design-thinking driven way.”

Looking ahead, flexibility from landlords will be key to supporting the rise of incubator hubs and the tech sector in Croydon as a whole. Saffron Saunders, CEO of StartUp Croydon, said: “Some landlords don’t understand how you can bring businesses in on flexible terms and help them grow out. We need that to change.”

Opama Khan, Head of Digital Services, Access and Reach, Croydon Council, said: “Young people are really missing out on networking opportunities and building relationships – there is an opportunity to more creatively use space. We need to come together and monitor how building space is used.”

George Meressa, Director of Clear Ads, said: “Extreme flexibility is a great idea. If there’s a room going free, be creative and put groups of tech entrepreneurs in them so they can network.”

For more insights, you can read a report with a transcript of the event.

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