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Tech cities in pole position to embrace events revolution

Tracy Halliwell MBE, director of conventions and major events at London Convention Bureau, on the pace of change

From financial services to fashion, technology is transforming a whole range of industries and the MICE sector is no different.

The rapid pace of innovation is not only changing the event experience, but it is also creating a host of new event concepts and technology focussed conferences that didn’t exist a decade ago. For meeting planners, this has created the need for a new set of expert speakers, investors, clients and potential sponsors who operate in these fast-growing sectors.

To meet these fresh demands, conference and event planners are increasingly looking to destinations with a strong MICE offer alongside a thriving technology hub. It’s no coincidence to see that some of the world’s hottest tech cities such as London, San Francisco and Singapore are now also leading the way in attracting the largest number of tech events – but what sets these cities apart from others?

Cities such as New York and London are not only world-leading tech hubs, they are also truly global business centres – attracting some of the best talent and companies from all over the world. For example, London is home to more software developers than any other European city and with four out of the world’s top 50 universities, it’s no surprise to see that some of the world’s largest tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon have established a large presence in the UK capital in recent years. 

For technology focussed event planners, these tech cities with clusters of international talent and companies provide easy access to influential experts and speakers, as well as potential clients who could pay for exhibition space or register delegates. Meanwhile, cities such as London and Shanghai with large global financial centres and high flows of investment capital, also give planners more sponsorship or funding options.

While more practical considerations such as hotel capacity, infrastructure and good transport links remain important factors for planners, we’ve found that technology conference and event organisers are also increasingly looking for destinations that have a deep-rooted culture of creativity and innovation to match their conference brand or event experience.

Whether it’s the world’s first underground train network - to the latest advancements of AI by DeepMind, London has always been a place where new ideas to change the world can thrive – and this has proved to be a great selling point for the city when talking to meeting planners.

Unlike many other technology hubs around the world, in London you have the start-up culture of the Bay Area, the financial centre of New York, the creative energy of Los Angeles, the world class universities of Boston and the policymakers found in Washington DC – all in one city. Having everything available in one centralised location is another reason why major tech hubs such as London top the list for MICE buyers.

While Brexit has created some short-term uncertainty, the fundamental strengths that make London a world leading business hub continues to help attract tech events and conferences to the UK capital– especially in sectors where London is known as a global leader.  

As one of the world’s top centres for AI research and development, London was recently selected ahead of other European cities to host IEEE Robotics and Automation Society's (RAS) flagship International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in 2023. 

Medical conference planners also continue to choose London due to our world-leading medical research and access to exceptional academic speakers. Upcoming medical events include the 2021 European AIDS Conference and the European Association for the Study of the Liver, which returns to London next year.

Likewise, our strengths in financial services and fintech helped us to secure the world’s premier financial services conference, SIBOS, held at ExCeL London in September 2019. With over 11,000 delegates in attendance, it was the largest SIBOS on record. 

However, London cannot rest on its laurels, as several other destinations across Europe and the rest of the world are increasingly competing for the attention of technology event planners, investors and companies alike. In Paris, we’ve seen the emergence of the highly popular Viva tech conference, Web Summit in Lisbon and the continued growth of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

When pitching to a sector that is known for constant change and pushing the boundaries, it’s important for any MICE destination to showcase a variety of unique and new venues to suit a range of event concepts. 

London Tech Week, Europe’s largest festival of technology, is a perfect example of how a destination city can be innovative in embracing a new event concept to meet the needs of the dynamic tech community. Using a crowdsourced event model, this year’s festival attracted over 55,000 global delegates and saw over 300 events taking place in a variety of venues all over the city.

Those destinations and convention bureaus that continue to embrace innovation in the same spirit as the sector they are serving will become the most popular locations for technology themed events.

I am confident that London’s creativity and ability to always reinvent itself will continue to make it an attractive destination for technology event planners and we look forward to welcoming more world class tech events to our city for many years to come.