London mayor Boris Johnson has announced his intentions to create a £100 million investment fund to boost the relationship between technology firms in London and the Middle East.
The fund, which the mayor hopes to raise with the help of other countries, will aim to encourage tech start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators from the Muslim world to come to London - but how exactly it will be spent is not clear at this stage.
“The idea is to bring together London tech firms and tech pioneers with the Arab world,” said Johnson on a Google Hangout, after the initial announcement made at the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) at East London’s ExCel centre. The WIEF aims to act as a platform for discussing business opportunities and business partnerships with the Muslim world.
“London has an atmosphere of dynamism and a feeling that anyone who has talent and ideas can make their lives here," said Johnson. "We have 300 languages spoken in London and a huge community with a million Muslims. It’s one of the biggest Muslim communities in Europe.”
Johnson said that Middle Eastern businesses looking to move to London would receive support from pro-London investment organisation, London & Partners, on issues such as finding an office space or making contacts.
London & Partners director of international business development, David Slater, told Techworld that the aim of the fund is to persuade Middle Eartern businesses to "internationalise" through London. He believes that Islamic governments are spending vast sums of money, particularly in the Gulf states, to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs. "There are now a lot of very well educated people in the Middle East," he added.
The mayor also revealed that he met with an Arab prince yesterday who told him that the tech scene in the Middle East is booming in the same way that London's is.
The Google Hangout was hosted as part of the InnoTech Summit, which was established last year and is designed to act as platform to bring together entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers.
InnoTech founder Jennifer Arcuri said: “As a London-based business, this is also great news for us. For a long time, Innotech has been looking to expand our network into the Middle East as we are well aware of the opportunities for new partnerships and new talent that the region presents."
London’s technology sector, largely concentrated around the so-called Silicon Roundabout in Old Street, has established itself over the last five years and attracted a number of leading technology companies, including Google, Intel and Amazon. However, a number of fast-growing younger tech firms are also established in the area.