OPINION: Brexit might be looming but Britain has plenty to show-off at MWC 2017
Britain’s lack of presence at CES 2017 may have been branded an embarrassment, but the same cannot be said for the UK and Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017.
In the centre of Hall 7 at the Fira conference centre in Barcelona, sits the UK and Ireland’s area, hosted by the government’s Department for International Trade. And around it are companies showcasing their products and services, notably on the cutting -edge, high-tech side, with firms specialising in artificial intelligence and the development of the Internet of Things (IoT).
The area appeared to be bustling with activity and meetings taking place, with both mainland Europeans and people from further afield chatting away with representatives of these companies and having meetings in a closed off area of the Department For International Trade’ stand.
Regardless of whether the UK government has been proactive in establishing such a presence, which was more significant than most nations with the exception of Germany and Belgium, or if the technology firms were the driving force, Britain’s strong MWC 2017 presence indicated that the nation’s technology industry is in rude health.
Little Britain, big presence
Interestingly, Scotland had its own dedicated section on the UK and Northern Ireland stand, with the nation championing its connectivity and academic prowess as much as it technology firms. Given the majority of Scots voted to remain in Europe, one is left with the impression that Scotland wants to present itself as a nation that can stand tall without necessarily having the support of England and Wales.
Perhaps one of the more interesting aspect of Britain’s MWC presence is how the main stand felt rather closed off in comparison to those of other nations. Perhaps this is an almost subliminal move by the British representatives to demonstrate that Britain will be closing itself off from the rest of Europe and that trade agreements will be a more clandestine affair that takes part in darkened booths rather than in full view.
Of course, as it stands Britain is very much part of Europe, so the UK’s presence a tthe next MWC could be diminished as technology firms keen for Britain to remain in the European Union, shun the Department for International Trade and prefer not to be associated with a nation that appears to be closer to embracing isolationism.
With investments in data centres to support the growth of the technology startup-heavy Northern Powerhouse, the UK’s tech and IT sectors do not look to be diminishing any time soon, even with Brexit on the horizon.
With Chancellor Phillip Hammond declaring that the technology industry in the “future of the British economy” , it looks unlikely that the government will diminish its support for the industry’s growth; whether it builds upon it has yet to be seen.
But if MWC 2107 is anything to go by Britain’s technology sector appears buoyant and ready to weather challenges thrown up by the Tory government and the UK’s departure from the European Union.
London remains the UK’s and arguably Europe’s tech capital that could drive Hammond’s vision of growth. But what do you know about London’s relationship with technology?