/A stampede of UK unicorns (via Qpute.com)

A stampede of UK unicorns (via Qpute.com)

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The UK is suffering a Brexit soaking, with a 0.4 per cent monthly fall in GDP reported on Monday as car manufacturing fell by a quarter. Yet with the tech sector growing one and half times faster than the rest of the economy, even torrential downpours in the capital yesterday could not rain on the parade of London Tech Week and the bubble of optimism it creates annually.

Tech treats have been tippling down here:

? Prime minister Theresa May opened the event with an announcement of $1.2bn in global tech investments in Britain by 13 companies (although £1bn of this came from VMware alone and is spread over five years).
?️ She also announced support for two areas where the UK has leadership, with £358m pledged to develop quantum computing and 2,500 places made available for people wanting to acquire skills in AI and data, to help “ensure the UK remains the largest tech hub in Europe”.
? India’s Infosys and Japan’s NTT Data are both opening innovation labs near Shoreditch’s Silicon Roundabout. Infosys will have space for 250 employees, NTT is making a £40m investment.
? Lilium, the Munich-based flying taxi start-up, said today it was hiring hundreds of software engineers at a new London hub.
? On the statistical front, Tech Nation, the scale-up network for UK entrepreneurs, has reported AI investment grew almost sixfold from 2014 to 2018, with double that raised by the rest of Europe combined last year. There are five AI unicorns (worth more than $1bn) in Darktrace, Benevolent AI, Improbable, Graphcore and Blue Prism.

? Tech Nation and DealRoom report the UK has created one tech unicorn a month over the past year, ranking the UK third behind only the US and China in creating fast-growing global tech companies. London ranks second to the Bay Area for the number of fintech unicorns, at 18, and has 72 altogether.

#techFT Tech Week takeaway: We’ll be attending more Tech Week events, but it’s hard not to feel at this stage that Britain has built up enough of an ecosystem and head of steam in areas such as AI, fintech and quantum computing that Brexit will prove no brake on tech progress.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Silicon Valley’s oldest tech company’s London experience
Poor Léo Apotheker! After we learnt last week Meg Whitman was happy to throw her predecessor as HP chief “under the bus” over the Autonomy deal debacle, his former finance chief Cathie Lesjak apparently called him a “dead man walking”, according to testimony at London’s High Court yesterday. I interviewed Ms Whitman’s successor Antonio Neri at Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s London HQ last week about less turbulent times under his leadership.

2. How bookshops survived Amazon
Foyles, the archaic bookshop I relied upon as an English Lit student in London in the 70s, is still around somehow (although Dillons isn’t). Today’s Big Read looks at its new incarnation on Charing Cross Road and asks whether its chief executive can now repeat its success across the Atlantic, when he moves to New York and takes charge of the ailing Barnes & Noble bookstore chain.

3. Copper-bottoming our tech future
The US and its allies have launched an international effort to encourage responsible development of materials needed for new energy technologies, including lithium, copper and cobalt, as they attempt to ensure future supplies of critical resources. Demand for copper could rise by 275 to 350 per cent by 2050, according to academics at Yale University, along with a seven-fold increase in demand for cobalt and an 11-fold increase in demand for lithium by 2050.

4. New opposition to T-Mobile-Sprint merger
The FCC is backing it, the Justice department is still on the fence, but T-Mobile’s $26bn takeover of mobile telecommunications rival Sprint now faces a new threat from a group of US states who are preparing a lawsuit to block the deal even if it wins regulatory approval from Washington. New York and Maryland are among those opposing reducing the number of nationwide wireless operators to three.

5. Self-drive strategies shift gear
Volkswagen has ended its relationship with Aurora, the Silicon Valley self-driving start-up backed by Amazon, paving the way for the world’s largest carmaker to enter into partnership with Ford and Aurora competitor Argo AI, reports Patrick McGee from Frankfurt.

Forwarded from our #fintechFT newsletter

Regulators are often accused of being late to the fintech party. In the US, the CFTC securities regulator is trying to change that, by pressing for an exemption from a rule that blocks the agency from getting involved in proof of concept fintech projects. The CFTC is confident of a good outcome, and also hopes to win enough of a budget to invest in its own technology and hire more hotshots with skills in areas such as artificial intelligence.

The regulator’s bid to up its fintech game comes as the US lags behind the world’s leading lights for fintech adoption, even though the country is home to some of the world’s biggest fintech centres, in Silicon Valley and New York. More from Laura Noonan in this week’s #fintechFT newsletter.

Tech tools — Opera GX browser for gamers

Opera’s browser has always led with innovative features, from incorporating VPNs to today’s announcement that latches on to the streaming gaming trend.

Opera GX is a custom version for gamers that comes with dedicated features that let users limit the browser’s access to computer resources such as the processor and memory, ZDNet reports. The idea is that they can multitask and still navigate the web, while leaving resources available for games or streaming applications running at the same time.

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