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Leaders in Tech – An interview series by Odgers Berndtson’s Scale Up Collective

Joe White MBE, joins Michael Drew, Partner and Head of Odgers Berndtson’s Technology Practice & Chair of the Scale Up Collective to discuss the current turbulence in big tech.

In this interview, Joe White MBE, His Majesty's Tech Envoy to the United States and Consul General San Francisco at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and Michael cover a lot of ground, including the decline of big tech, how the UK can diversify its technology ecosystem, and the collaboration between British and American governments and the tech industry. They also cover how an unexpected conversation led him to his current role, which is a new position for the UK government.

Watch the full interview here:

Michael highlights companies that Odgers Berndtson has worked with such as DeepMind, and with Isomorphic Labs, UK-headquartered businesses, who are doing some amazing things in drug discovery. Work like this is extremely beneficial not only to biotech, but these kinds of partnerships can benefit agritech and wider society.

Expanding on this collaborative approach, Joe adds:

“The DeepMind and Isomorphic example is spot on because you've got a pioneering AI institute, that is DeepMind, which then uses its tools to do protein folds for Isomorphic, which has then blended itself into effectively what's moving into very much AI-enabled biotech or bioengineering phases.

The discussion goes on to cover the potential for wider applications, such as a more tailored approach from a health perspective to uses in agritech like different ways of growing things.

Later in the interview, Michael and Joe discuss how the UK economy can diversify its technology ecosystem. At present, for example, there is perhaps too much reliance on FinTech. Joe shares his predictions of what will be core to the UK tech scene and what areas the UK could become world leaders in:

The FinTech piece is core because we do have a global financial center in London. FinTech which is really increasingly the technification of that finance process has been something that the UK has led on and is recognized globally for doing so. The other areas I think where we're going to see more and more activity and where we've got real expertise is again biotech.

We've had this almost wartime-like acceleration of that industry with the Covid response and particularly around the golden triangle - Oxford’s got a lot of biotech that's coming through OSE, our genomics industry, Oxford Nanopore which is now a public company.

The discussion ends with Joe sharing his thoughts and near-term predictions for the tech sector given the events of the last six months, and what can be expected from the market once it returns:

“I think we are seeing an adjustment, as you said, particularly in big tech, we're seeing 6%,10% shavings of the workforce. That's a dramatic difference to the 90% survival cuts we saw 20 odd years ago.

I don't think this is anything like the dot-com crash. I think this is a probably needed adjustment from some of the acceleration possibly edging towards hubris in different parts of this. I think the tech economy's going to continually be hugely strong. I think that any interpretation that this was a signaling of tech decline or less tech relevance, would be entirely wrong. If anything, this is a return to the extremely strong long-term trend, just slightly off the insane trend that we had for a very few years.” explains Joe.

To discuss your needs within the tech landscape, please contact Michael Drew directly or get in touch with us here. You can also find your local Odgers Berndtson contact here.

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