The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. Never before have we been so reliant on technology to communicate, collaborate and even enjoy post-work drinks.
Technology has enabled us to thrive in the face of adversity and will now play a crucial role in the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
For many in the UK tech sector, the pandemic has acted as an accelerator of growth. At home, food-delivery apps such as Deliveroo have kept us fed while our favourite restaurants were closed. And at work, albeit still at home, AI-powered cyber security platforms like Darktrace have helped to keep our remote workforces safe from cyber attackers that prey on vulnerable home WiFi networks.
Across almost every industry, technology is no longer being seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘must-have’, and the legal industry is no exception.
The effect of AI
I joined Luminance, a London-headquartered company that uses artificial intelligence to help lawyers read, understand and analyse legal documents, as CEO in January this year. During the pandemic, our customer base increased by 40% as legal teams turned to AI technology that would allow them to access their documents remotely, collaborate with their colleagues and respond to critical, unexpected legal issues. Indeed, when Covid-19 hit, legal teams around the world needed to understand their contractual risks and liabilities practically overnight.
But even as the UK begins to emerge from lockdown and we start to envision a ‘new normal’, I have no doubt that our reliance on tech is here to stay. Organisations now recognise the power of innovative technology to drive much-needed efficiencies into their workflow and tackle complex business problems. This is not just about targeting one part of the business but must be implemented enterprise-wise. For instance, AI can be used to drive sales, ensure compliance with complex business regulations and even help with HR-related issues.
Technology, and AI in particular, will also be a key driver of post-pandemic economic recovery here in the UK. When announcing the budget for the coming year, UK Treasurer, Rishi Sunak, unfurled plans for a £375million UK-wide ‘Future Fund: Breakthrough’ which will invest in innovative companies primarily in life sciences, quantum computing and clean technology. This is part of the drive to transform the UK into a ‘Science Superpower’ – an initiative that will be greatly benefit a country that has at its fingertips an incredible research and science base and the best academic institutions in the world. This is much like a country sitting on oil reserves, and I believe this move is set to maximise these assets.
Sunak is also launching a new Tech Visa scheme to help UK tech firms attract more global talent. As the leader of a company with almost 50% of its workforce focused on Research and Development in our Cambridge hub, I believe this will elevate tech arenas like the ‘Silicon Fenn’ technology cluster and ensure that it continues to attract the brightest minds and technology know how from around the world – especially vital in light of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Ultimately, a prosperous tech sector will create jobs and benefit the broader economy. In fact, PwC predicts that the UK GDP will be up to 10.3% higher in 2030 as a result of AI, whilst Tech Nation, an organisation dedicated to the growth of the UK’s most promising tech companies, revealed that employment in UK tech has increased by 40% in the last two years – critical for a country facing an unemployment rate of 4.9%, the highest for 5 years.
Global technological hub
Indeed, at Luminance, we have seen the number of applicants increasing, many of whom are applying to roles on the tech side of the business – from technical writing to development and research. Whilst 20 years’ ago, the majority of ambitious and bright graduates might have pursued a more traditional career choice in law or accounting, today, the fast-paced and exciting nature of the tech sector has become a big draw, and we’re seeing a host of impressive candidates as a result.
Sunak’s desire for the country to be a major global tech hub is well on the way to being realised. The UK has seen a number of successful technology IPOs over the past six months, increasing the number of fast-growing companies on the London Stock Exchange. For example, world-leading cyber AI company, Darktrace, saw a staggering 40% increase in share price on its stock market debut in April. The scale of innovation and entrepreneurship that stems from our capital is something to be celebrated in a year that has been difficult for many.
The British tech sector is breathing new life into the economy and providing opportunity and employment. As we return to normal, AI will aid modernisation, helping businesses across all sectors adapt to the times.