Skift Take

The new "Capital of Cutting Edge" report is more of a positioning statement than research paper, describing why more conference planners should judge a city based on its intellectual capital.

London is home to 40% of the European headquarters of the world’s top technology companies, which makes the city highly attractive to conference planners who organize large tech industry conventions.

With so much tech expertise in one place, planners can source innumerable speakers for educational sessions and attract a wider variety of local exhibitors, for example. That, in turn, helps drive higher interest and attendance to conventions in London.

The same goes for other industries predominant in the city, most notably financial, life sciences, retail, and the creative sectors.

London & Partners, the organization responsible for attracting convention business to England’s capital, has spent the last few years repositioning the city as a hub of innovation in those fields. Like many other first-tier destinations, London is attempting to differentiate itself by promoting its intellectual capital above and beyond the convention infrastructure.

The challenge to date has been effectively selling the idea to a wider base of planners and the organizations they represent. It’s easy for London to promote a new convention center. But how do you sell business knowledge to planners, especially to compete with the Germans and Dutch, who have the exact same strategy?

Toward that end, London & Partners launched a new report called: “The Capital of Cutting Edge,” designed to illustrate the tangible benefits for planners around the city’s ability to deliver sector-specific expertise.

The five-section report highlights the five industries mentioned above, beginning with the technology sector. That’s the big kahuna of convention industry development in London because technology development impacts all of the other industries.

Financial services, for example, is expanding and evolving across new business verticals in FinTech. Likewise, MedTech, AdTech, EdTech, web tech, and retail tech are all exploding in terms of global demand and development.

In a nervy bit of destination development, showing the potential for convention bureaus to drive innovation, London & Partners helped create the annual London Technology Week in Shoreditch in 2014. That has significantly helped brand the city as Europe’s official Silicon Valley, of sorts, in the face of strident efforts to do the same in Berlin, Barcelona, Stockholm, and Amsterdam, among others.

The Capital of Cutting Edge report is a bridge between that destination product development and the convention organizer.

“It builds on the unique selling points of London’s sectorial expertise and our business strengths that is very much putting us at the cutting edge,” Chris Lynn, VP, sales & marketing North America at London & Partners, told Skift.

So the report doesn’t so much as mark a shift in internal strategy in London, because the bureau has been developing this formula for some time. It’s more of a positioning statement. It’s a call-to-arms for all conference planners to rethink how they prioritize convention design and programming, and the potential business outcomes deriving from that.

“When it comes to the event planner, we really need to demonstrate hard and fast tangible elements, so people will then understand the sectorial approach a lot more, based on our prowess on the world stage in tech, finance, life sciences and creative industries,” added Lynn. “And these are also sectors the city government of London put their weight behind, as well, so it’s really a whole joined-up approach by the entire city.”

London Technology Week is an example of that, aggressively supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

In 2015, over 43,000 delegates gathered at the show in only its second year. That also led to the development of the online Tech.London hub in partnership with IBM that provides a slick entry point for investment and educational opportunities in London.

The report shares testimonials from conference planners and corporate CEOs who are bringing large business events to the city, and it provides contextual storytelling around London’s legacy in those sectors.

The Sibos banking conference will attract an anticipated 9,000 attendees in 2019, for example. The report immerses the event in a larger theme about the evolution of London’s financial sector from the beginning of the Bank of England in the 17th century to what now comprises the largest FinTech ecosystem in the world.

Likewise, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) hosted more than 32,000 delegates at the ExCel London convention center last year. Again, the report describes the continuum in the city’s history from Charles Darwin’s discovery of evolution to the opening of the interdisciplinary White City Campus at Imperial College London, which co-locates various science, medical, academic, and business communities in one place.

Lynn also pointed to the new Francis Crick Institute opening this year, where 1,250 scientists will take residence in one of Europe’s largest and most advanced bio-med research facilities. Some of those scientists are eager to bring international members of their industry to the new facility, which London & Partners can further leverage to sell the city.

“So by linking up ambassadors of our academic community with the kind of bleeding-edge research we have access to, they become proponents for new pieces of business centered around innovation,” Lynn said.

On their own, the testimonials and storytelling are not accomplishing anything beyond what many other forward-thinking destinations are doing. And one could argue there’s room here for more details about the individual events profiled to give the thought piece some more heft.

However, the value of The Capital of Cutting Edge is in its brevity and focused delivery, supported by real world examples. The paper is basically packaging the services of London & Partners, and its mission to introduce conference planners with advanced industry thought leaders, in a nuanced and easily digestible content marketing vehicle.


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Tags: london

Photo credit: A rendering of The Francis Crick Institute opening this year in London. The Francis Crick Institute

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