By Monica Takacs, Pittsburgh Technology Council

What a whirlwind of a day! It’s been more than 20 years since I have last been to London and boy has it changed. Modern buildings are replacing the designs of yesteryear. Sustainable and green architecture is seen throughout the skyline and on the riverfront. But, the city remains vibrant and on the cutting edge.

Our day started with a walk along the River Thames to Scotland House. Scotland House provides a distinctly Scottish platform in central London for Scottish companies looking to develop new trade, investment and partnership opportunities. It also provides a permanent home in London for the Scotland House Partners, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and VisitScotland.

We learned that Scotland is the most attractive location in the UK for R&D projects (annual increase of 90%) and ranks second behind London in investment. Edinburgh was ranked as the fastest-growing tech hub in 2017 and their universities aim to train 100,000 data scientists over the next 10 years to fill their employment needs. Scotland allows Americans that graduate from a Scottish university to stay visa free for two years post-graduation as a way to entice talent to stay in the region. Consistent with the R&D tax credit that we learned about yesterday at the London & Partners event, Scotland also provides an attractive tax package for innovation.

After glimpsing the London Eye, we had a short tour of London City, home to financial, service provider and barrister firms on our way to the newly opened UCL Centre for Artificial Intelligence. There we learned about how UCL is training the next generation workforce for jobs in artificial intelligence and machine learning. An advantage that they offer to U.S. companies that open an office in London is access to graduate and doctoral students. Their graduate students are all required to do a three-month project. This is a great benefit for industry. This is free for companies willing to make the commitment to supervise the student on the project. The IP generated belongs to the company. Companies may also sponsor a PhD student, to work on a longer-term project at the company while studying.

After lunch, we hopped on the Tube to King’s Cross Station. Sound familiar? We caught sight of Platform 9 3/4, as described in the Harry Potter Books. But, we didn’t need magic to see something amazing. Just outside of the station was the Knowledge Quarter, a world-class knowledge cluster, from the world’s earliest books and manuscripts to the latest fashion and creative designs and cutting-edge medical research. This is one of the top places where innovation is happening in the city of London. We saw construction projects for Google, where they expect to employ 7,000 people, and Facebook’s biggest engineering hub outside of the U.S. Here, a former industrial and red-light district has turned into one of the most coveted real estate markets in the city.

Tonight, we will lay down our heads in Manchester and and wake up to a new city to explore. I look forward to seeing what they have to offer to our delegation as a place of doing business. Thank you to the UK’s Department of Trade and British Airways for an amazing trip so far.