Microsoft has opened its new ‘Reactor’ in Shoreditch in London with a $20 million investment. Reactor will host the company’s accelerator for scale-ups and London’s rising start-ups. It will also host events such as hackathons, technology events and social impact projects for up to 120. The local technology community, including start-ups, coding clubs and technology entrepreneurs will have access to the various events. The aim of each event is to encourage growth and innovation of the new technology businesses and to help grow the capital’s start-up ecosystem, in an effort to ensure the UK remains the home of technology talent and designed to bring the technology community together and put the UK at the forefront of the industry.
Microsoft managing director for the start-ups and scale-ups programme in the UK, Warwick Hill, said “This is a long term investment in Britain,”
“It’s a good thing for UK business and to help them go global. London is the epicentre in the UK. It’s a good investment for us pre and post-Brexit.”
It’s just the latest of several new tech spaces to pop up in the city, but Hill said it was the involvement of clients such as Vodafone, Rolls Royce and Kingfisher which will make it stand out against others that have just a single corporate backer.
London becomes the first Reactor space in Europe after locations in New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Microsoft is also considering launching further spaces in Europe and is planning to open one in Sydney
“There are plans to look at Berlin, and obviously France is a big pull with Station F (start-up space),” said Hill.
It’s also a play to get smaller companies using Microsoft, particularly its cloud services, an area in which it is competing with Amazon and Google. The capital is the third largest target country for its cloud business and also has a large developer community.
In London, Projects such as looking at key issues across the technology industry, such as AI ethics and diversity will be carried out at the centre. For instance, AI in health events, augmented reality and machine learning events. The centre also aims to close the widening digital skills gap, ensuring all new businesses in the tech industry have the adequate skills to become world leaders.
Cindy Rose, Microsoft partner’s customer and products UK Chief Executive, said. “The Reactor is a $20m investment by Microsoft over the next 10 years. It’s a reflection of the enduring commitment to the UK as a destination for digital innovation, and the importance that we place on nurturing and developing start-up talent in the UK, which we know is Europe’s hotspot for technology innovation.”
Rose said: “The skills challenge is absolutely one that has to be tackled. This space is specially designed and located in the heart of Shoreditch to help us connect better with the technology start-up and scale-up community, offer access to Microsoft’s technology, platform and tools, and connect businesses with our enterprise customers and partners.”
The UK, London named in particular, was recently revealed as the most favoured place to home a new tech-start up despite the nuisance of Brexit.
The new centre created by Microsoft only encourages this further, helping to strive towards the Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock’s, vision to become a world leader in the digital age.
In addition to the new centre, Microsoft has also launched a digital skills programme within the UK that runs until 2020. The aim of the programme is to ensure the UK maintains its prominent position in the tech industry, across cloud computing, AI and other emerging technologies.
As well as this Microsoft has launched a Cloud Skills Initiative, which will see 500,000 individuals across the UK trained in cloud technology. Microsoft has also extended its programmes to partner with NHS and ensure every industry has the necessary skills.
Warwick Hill said, “We want to bring in the schools of tomorrow, the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and the agile thinkers of tomorrow, and make sure that girls and young women, in particular, see technology as a viable career path for them.”