Tech City UK Blog

Tech City UK showcased Britain’s expertise in EdTech, FinTech, Smart Cities and Innovative technology at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta last week.  Here’s our reflections on what was a fascinating week for everyone involved.

We led a delegation of 12 digital entrepreneurs from across the UK to the Business Forum at CHOGM in Malta where innovative technology has the potential to scale across international markets with a particular focus on mutually beneficial trade within the Commonwealth.

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CHOGM is a prestigious biennial global event which provided these digital businesses with a platform to showcase British specialisms.  We are extremely grateful to Expedia UK for being our sponsor and partner on the trip.

During the course of the Business Forum Tech City UK held a series of Roundtables with Ministers, Investors, Business Leaders, and hosted panel discussions for all delegates attending on subjects ranging from Skilling the Commonwealth, Harnessing technology, Smart Cities and e-government.

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As 50% of the top 20 European EdTech companies based in the UK, we felt it necessary to demonstrate just how ground breaking we are in the UK in the EdTech space.  The following businesses accompanied us to demonstrate this:

  • Kano – creates computer-building and coding kits for children
  • Pobble – a fast-growth online creative writing platform for children
  • Code First: Girls – a social enterprise that works with companies and women to increase the proportion of women in tech and entrepreneurship
  • Emerge Education – an accelerator programme supporting education start-ups in London
  • Digital Business Academy (Tech City UK programme) – an online platform that teaches digital business skills and offers business opportunities for students and the wider tech community

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Digital companies driven by inventive approaches to data analysis are also attracting significant investment in the UK. They were represented by:

  • what3words  – the simplest way to communicate location. They recently raised a funding round of $3.5M from Intel Capital and Horizons Ventures
  • Improbable – is developing SpatialOS; a distributed operating system that makes building simulated worlds possible. Simulated worlds provide unique insight to those asking questions of complex systems
  • The Open Data Institute – the organisation driving open innovation with data in disciplines as diverse as agriculture, finance and smart cities
  • The Test People – an innovative testing solution based company providing performance engineering, automation and test strategy

With this diverse range of digital businesses involved, their respective reflections from the trip were from different perspectives:

Rebecca Sweetman, VP Operations, Kano: “It has been a wonderful few days in Malta at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Business Forum. I’ve generated some very exciting business opportunities across the Commonwealth from Malta to Malaysia, Nigeria to Namibia. It has also been a great opportunity to connect with the Tech City UK team and the rest of the delegation.”

David Curtis, COO, Wakelet: “Being part of Tech City UK delegation at CHOGM was an amazing experience. Just perfect hosts in a foreign city, and they just couldn’t have done any more to make sure I got the most out of my time there.”

Jon Smith, CEO, Pobble: “Attending the Commonwealth Business Forum as a guest of Tech City UK was incredibly valuable for Pobble. We made many fantastic connections and gained market intelligence for how to do business in many Commonwealth countries, directly from Prime Ministers, senior government officials and business leaders.”

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Steven Ramage, Director of Strategy, what3words and Visiting Professor, Institute for Future Cities, University of Strathclyde: “It was an honour to join such a range of notable dignitaries and speakers, having a startup sitting on the same panel as a Prime Minister doesn’t happen every day! I thought the diversity of attendees from across the Commonwealth ensured that there were multiple viewpoints represented.  I massively appreciated the innovator session organised by Tech City UK bringing Lord Marland and Lord Maude to discuss their experiences and offer support for British startups and SMEs.”

Amali de Alwis, CEO, Code First: Girls: “It’s been such a great week at CHOGM already. Living and working in London, it’s easy to end up over focusing on just the UK tech ecosystem, and events like this remind you how much dynamism there is across the world. It’s also given me the chance to borrow lots of good ideas to take back to London, as well as meet people from everywhere from Lesotho and Durban to Trinidad and Canada who want to take our ideas back to their own countries!”

Jan Matern, CEO Emerge Education: “CHOGM was one of the most useful conferences I have attended in 2015, not least because of the tireless efforts of Tech City UK who helped arra nge meetings with high-ranking officials, investors and businesses. Emerge Education was able to convey its message to hundreds of leaders across the Commonwealth that EdTech is one of the most exciting industries to invest in, and we came home with a wealth of new contacts that will grow our business going forward.”

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Richard Dennys, Head of Digital Business Academy: “The original goal aim for this delegation was to gauge early opinion and potential demand for some of the new features and tools we are developing for DBA. In the end, however, the trip offered so much more than this; the fellow British delegates on the mission were both inspiring and inspired by the positive, business-minded environment around us.  It was also great to spend a day at the University of Malta’s TAKEOFF startup incubator where we spent time comparing the admirable work of the local Maltese ecosystem to our own in the UK and explored building deeper links for developing a skills, knowledge and capacity exchange over the coming years.”

We visited TAKEOFF, the startup accelerator based at the University of Malta, which is Malta’s first technology business incubator. The programme is specifically designed to help innovators and aspiring entrepreneurs create successful science, technology, engineering, creative media and knowledge-based startup business – taking them from idea to investment. We met flourishing businesses in data, 3d printing, and gaming.

Expedia kindly hosted an event in Valletta where we had both the American and Irish Ambassadors in attendance, with the Maltese tech and media community, our UK delegates along with many business leaders and international guests.


Recognising the importance of technology as a driver of future economic growth the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) launched its technology programme in partnership with Tech City UK.  The tech programme will initially focus on helping to establish the ecosystem for technology based companies in member countries to flourish with an initial focus on the important areas of EdTech, FinTech, Smart Cities, e-Government, Open Data and Innovation.

With the support of the CWEIC, Tech City UK will be establishing a “Digital Commonwealth” Working Group that helps to inform policy and establish an Open Data Framework Charter for the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Business Forum’s proposal is to double intra-Commonwealth trade to $1 trillion USD before 2020 for the 53 countries of the Commonwealth whereby GDP is currently at 14% and where half of the citizens speak English as their first language.  There really is an opportunity for the UK and our digital businesses to expand globally in the ecosystem and Tech City UK were delighted to be able to be part of such an important and memorable event.

The Prime Minister David Cameron commented: “I am delighted that we can share with the Commonwealth the great work that UK entrepreneurs are doing in education, coding, innovation, and the internet of things. It is vital that we take their skills and knowledge in order to foster international expansion and benefit others around the Commonwealth.”