This article is part of Insider London’s latest series on the Green Recovery. We analyse the transition in terms of the UK’s strongest business sectors. This week we take a look at the role of the UK tech sector.
Technology has a monumental role to play in building a green future. From energy and smart buildings to transportation and smart cities – tech empowers us to create intelligent and responsive systems that are more efficient for the public and more sustainable for the planet. These last few weeks have seen the launch of a number of exciting initiatives from both the private sector and the government, as well as calls for the government to be bolder in working with UK tech. Alongside the National Grid, HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group, BT signed the widely-publicised green recovery letter to Boris Johnson, but have also taken matters into their own hands with two new programmes. In partnership with the Climate Group, BT has recently launched the UK Electric Fleets Alliance. This aims to support corporations in adopting electric vehicles and includes investment into electric charging infrastructure.
Their second programme, the Green Tech Innovation Platform, in partnership with US firm Plug and Play, is aimed at the start-up landscape. Uncovering tech scaleups in the UK, BT is searching for the best start-ups in three specific areas: smart streets, smart buildings and remote working. Examples given include environmental monitoring and traffic sensors which can be integrated into street furniture (smart streets), IoT solutions for energy and water management in social housing (smart buildings) and 5G applications to reduce travel such as video, AR or VR for remote repair work (remote working).
Similarly, the government-backed network Tech Nation has this month launched the Net Zero growth programme. Open to any companies who directly or indirectly reduce emissions, the six month programme is free to participate in, with the goal of helping the UK reach its goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Companies converting footfall into power and data, those reducing tailpipe emissions and nanotechnology firms harnessing visible light into electrical energy were all referenced by Tech Nation when announcing this programme. The network was also quick to affirm they have already identified 251 VC-backed cleantech companies operating in the UK and that the sector is growing fast. 2019 saw a 26% rise in investment from 2018 with Bristol-based Ovo Energy taking the lead – raising a total of £255M.
The future is therefore looking bright for the tech landscape but the business world is pushing for bigger commitment. Energy UK and the Solar Trade Association are one of many businesses who have co-authored a call for a UK-based International Centre for AI, Energy and Climate to be established in the Covid-recovery period. Billed as a way to both facilitate a green transition and to boost the competitiveness of the sector, advocates of the proposed centre want the UK to become a world leader in artificial intelligence. This proposal, which takes the form of another letter to Boris Johnson, outlines how essential the application of data science and digital enablers are to a green future, and also proposes an “emerging tech pavilion” at 2021’s COP26 in Glasgow.
Find out more about the foundations of the UK’s sector with our Tech City walking tour of the vibrant Silicon Roundabout district.. Alternately, go deeper with our In-Depth Company Visits, and meet the pioneering companies leading the way.