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What’s the ‘next big thing’ for UK start-ups and investors?

AI, big data, and robotics topped the investment chart last year, and show no signs of slowing. However, there are other areas on the verge of an explosion in growth and innovation, and are to be watched with interest.

AI, big data, and robotics topped the investment chart last year, and show no signs of slowing.

According to startups.co.uk, AI and machine learning alone secured £85.75m in 2016 - 20 times the £3m raised in 2011. FinTech, as a sub-sector, remains an investment magnet, “pulling in £2bn in VC investment over the past five years.”

There is also positive news about how UK technology is perceived from the outside, as well. Great Britain is still seen as a technology leader in Europe, despite Brexit. Recently, Deb McGargle – a tech influencer from the US – “claimed Boston leaders were coming to Britain to take note from systems and innovations, pegging the nation as an industry influencer,” reports Real Business.

However, there are other areas on the verge of an explosion in growth and innovation, and are to be watched with interest.


Cyber security

There is no shortage of reports telling us how ill-equipped and vulnerable the UK is to cyber attacks. According to a Cyber Security Breaches Survey conducted by the government, just under half of the business surveyed had their security breached in the past 12 months. A new study by the Institute of Directors and Barclays bank entitled “Cyber security: Ensuring business is ready for the 21st century” found 1 in 3 SMEs don’t have a strategy in place for protecting themselves from cyber attacks.

The UK’s cyber security sector is worth $28 billion, and while the UK Digital Strategy outlined a commitment to cyber security, it is unlikely that government innovations will trickle down to the small-to-medium business that are most vulnerable. This is where start-ups often save the day, by providing scalable solutions targeted at the niche difficulties experienced by a variety of organisations. 



Last year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced it was not going to regulate the blockchain industry, hoping that such a move would give applications of the technology a chance to grow and develop without regulatory restrictions. It has since added a handful of blockchain start-ups to its FinTech ‘sandbox’ to test services and products from a regulatory standpoint.

The number of start-ups working with blockchain are staggering, and across multiple industries and sectors. FinTech is the obvious magnet for blockchain’s distributed ledgers, but start-ups are leveraging blockchain in areas from education to energy, from airlines to music.

However, blockchain is as famous for its limitations as it is for its potential to revolutionize multiple industries. The key to any successful blockchain solution or application is to work either within, around, or in spite of its faults.


AR, VR and MR

Pokémon Go hype has well and truly calmed, leaving space – in its way – for the real work to begin. Innovation in augmented, virtual, and mixed realities drive at a phenomenally fast pace, touching everything from health tech to the workplace of the future, from piloting submarines to the rebirth of Nokia.

Corporates and investors alike are now devoting time, resources and space to these innovations. HP Tech Ventures has invested in The Venture Reality Fund. Unliver has invested in Snatch, an app that gamifies brand engagement. And food delivery company Just Eat is investing in an AI/AR start-up to help it extract and leverage customer data.

Entertainment is still finding its way with immersive technologies. Facebook’s Camera Effects has brought augmented reality into profile photos, while start-up Zappar is developing an app that enables users to create their own augmented reality experiences using a smartphone.

While is clear that while immersive technologies are slowly starting to permeate several aspects of our working and private lives, investment is these areas is keen, but cautious.

Are you a start-up in cyber security, blockchain, or immersive tech? Get in touch!

Tagged: invesdor uk, Points of view

Gayle O’Brien

Written by Gayle O’Brien

Gayle O’Brien started her writing career during Web 1.0 and still appears to be standing. After multiple stints in-house and agency side, her writing now focuses on start-ups, technology, and innovation. A dual citizen of the US and UK, Gayle divides her time between Massachusetts and south-east England.