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London Tech Week 2024 ended on an inauspicious note for yours truly as issues with overhead cables caused several of the overground trains heading north away from Olympia to be cancelled on the final day of the three day event.

Still, it could have been worse – several people I spoke to on the platform at Kensington Olympia were heading straight to the airport to get home after a busy three days of networking, talks and presentations. Many looked on the bright side though; their flights will probably be delayed too.

But back to the event itself, the 11th edition of the conference and exhibition attracted over 45,000 attendees from 90+ countries across the three days. Tech entrepreneurs, start-ups, politicians, industry leaders and innovators from around the world gathered together to discuss, what else, but AI.

The tone was set on day one with Nicola Hodson, IBM’s chief executive for the UK & Ireland, delivering the opening keynote and highlighting that “the AI industry will outstrip the UK economy by a trillion dollars by 2030.”

But how can industry and society alike truly benefit from AI and realise its full potential? This was the topic for one of the talks on the main stage on day three of the event, with attendees told that people are crucial to unlocking capabilities with AI; and that part of this is reliant on social change.

An anecdote followed by way of comparison: as children we were taught never to get into a car with a stranger, yet now we do so every day around the world be it Uber, Bolt or any of the other multiple ride-sharing platforms and services. Not sure this is quite the same – but point taken. Crucially, we must all buy into the fact that AI will enhance and not replace human creativity.

Of course it wouldn’t be London Tech Week without a politician or two appearing; and with the UK General Election in a little over three weeks, the chance to pledge its commitment to the technology industry was not lost on Peter Kyle MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Science, Innovation & Technology.

Mr Kyle told attendees that the Labour Party was aiming to deliver the highest sustained economic growth in the G7 and will place a premium on partnering with the technology industry in order to help realise this ambition.

He also emphasised that unlocking the power of data is key to driving economic growth, which is why the Labour Party plans to create a new national data library. When questions were opened to the floor, one of the topics to inevitably come up was regulation around AI.

Mr Kyle explained his view that the regulatory landscape for AI needs to be far more reflexive in the UK, but that at the same time the biggest barrier to investment right now here is stability, or as he put it – the current lack of it.

Potentially good timing ahead of the Sky News leaders’ event this evening, where the latest ONS figures revealing that the UK economy failed to grow in April will inevitably come up.

James Meredith

James is a Director at Liberty Communications

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