Gerard Grech is the CEO of Tech City UK, an organisation focused on accelerating the growth of digital businesses in London and across cities in the UK. He is also a member of the UK government's Digital Economy Council and Greater London Authority's Smart London Board, both focused on economic growth through digital innovation.
Gerard has 15 years' experience in the world of digital media, web and mobile. His international experience in London, Paris and New York, building digital products and rolling them out across five continents, has given him global vision and local expertise, spanning product development, business strategy and venture capital.He speaks to India Inc. on the importance of tech companies for job creation, fostering the right start-up ecosystem and how Indian start-ups can learn from some best practices in Britain.What is the remit of Tech City UK Tech City UK was launched in 2010 by Prime Minister David Cameron with an east London focus but has since grown to encompass the whole of the UK.The aim was to accelerate the growth of the digital economy by delivering programmes to fill market gaps, shape the right policies by providing agile feedback to the government and overall to simply advocate and champion the digital sector in the UK. Tech City essentially is the body banging the drum for London to ensure it continues to be the digital capital of the world. Investment in tech companies in London rose 20 times in 2014, compared to 2010 figures.What are some of the key programmes offered The programmes range from early to later stage of a business cycle. Digital Business Academy, alongside Cambridge Judge Business School and University College London (UCL), is the world's first government-backed platform to give the UK population free access to digital business skills and opportunities.Upscale is designed to provide scaleup tech businesses with expertise from a set of world class Scale Coaches so they can learn from the best practices. It is aimed at the next generation of entrepreneurs and founders.The Future Fifty programme helps accelerate the growth of a selected group of exciting, growth-stage UK-based digital companies. This scheme is aimed at companies growing extremely quickly and employing hundreds around world. These are just some of the wide range of programmes for companies and entrepreneurs at different stages of development.How can Indian start-ups plug into Tech City There are number of policy convening programmes which could be of interest for Indian start-ups. The Tech Nation Visa scheme is aimed at employing the best talent from around the world.Given that this industry is moving so quickly, our aim is to try and smoothen the path for budding entrepreneurs. This bold scheme is aimed at specialised fields like data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence and for companies which have shown a potential to successfully scale up a product, like taking a company to initial public offering (IPO).We are keen to ensure that anyone with technical and commercial talent who fits into this criteria can apply for a five-year visa and be provided with the right incubation space.For example, an Indian company with a small team of up to five people who are exceptional in their area of expertise and want to expand their operations to the UK can apply to us and we can assess and endorse them. If they prove successful, they can apply to the Home Office.How can Tech City help with India-UK collaboration We are always keen and happy to share best practices. We have been successful at creating conditions for growth which can be replicated across India. Also, our experience with ensuring that the start-up community has a voice in government can also be replicated.What is the key to fostering the right start-up ecosystem I would highlight four key drivers: ensuring a critical mass of talent in tech sector; ensuring growth through policy and fostering investment with support for R&D and offers like tax credits; providing the right infrastructure as superfast broadband is the lifeblood of any digital business; and encouraging the right leadership.What are your views on the Digital India initiative Digital businesses are creating jobs of tomorrow. It is in the Indian government's interest that it does everything it can to foster their growth.It is also important to ensure that these companies go global very quickly. A good example is Hungama Mobile, which has shown tremendous growth. The key is that firms like these are given the support they need to scale up and grow so that they can carry on creating the jobs of tomorrow.