Brexit threatens London’s position as the data capital of Europe, according to a report unveiled at UK data conference Big Data LDN.

London is currently considered the biggest hub for data transfer and exchanges in Europe. And with data a pivotal role in the so-called fourth industrial revolution, or industry 4.0, data experts have expressed concern about Brexit’s impact on UK competitiveness in this area.

Outlined in Big Data LND’s The Fourth Industrial Revolution Report 2018, 45% of data experts believe that Brexit will weaken London’s position as the data capital of Europe.

Of those, a further 17% believe that Brexit will make it impossible for London to maintain its position.

Big Data LDN founder Bill Hammond, said:

“Britain’s data leaders show a lack of confidence in Brexit as the catalyst enabling the UK to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and go as far to say it will hinder the UK’s place in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Instead, the UK’s data leaders are choosing to garner more insight from the data they already have. Increasingly though, they are looking for the data science skills to discover and interpret even more data to gain the edge over global competition.”

Recruiting data experts after Brexit

Those looking to recruit data scientists from overseas believe that this will be easier to do post-Brexit, with 51% responding that they expect to find it easier to attract talent to their company.

A sizeable amount of data experts also believe that there is an opportunity in leaving the European Union, with 34% responding that Brexit could benefit London’s position as Europe’s data capital.

This is reinforced by a recent report that predicted London will remain the most important city for the data market, although Frankfurt is tipped to grow at a faster rate.

Data spending is lacking

Elsewhere, the report shows that businesses are investing an average of £2.6m into data initiatives. This equates to between 0.5% and 0.7% of average revenue, leading the report to question if spending is high enough to put companies ahead in the fourth industrial revolution – particularly in a post-Brexit Britain.

“These findings clearly demonstrate the challenge facing UK organisations, as they aspire to lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Hammond.

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“With investment from UK organisations in data initiatives as low as 0.5% of revenue, we have to ask ourselves whether this is enough for Britain to take the lead and dominate after Brexit.”

Who should regulate tech giants post-Brexit?

The UK Government has stated it will adopt the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into UK law post-Brexit, but it needs to clarify its own data legislation – specifically how it reigns in tech giants.

The majority (42%) of data experts believe that the UK’s data regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), is best suited for this role. Closely following is the Government – separate from the ICO – with 40%.

Typically, tech giants –  who rely on extracting value from personal data – support data protection regulations, as long as it does not stifle innovation.

For example, Google’s chief privacy officer Keith Enright has previously stated ensuring GDPR compliance took “hundreds of years of human time”.

Recently, Chancellor Philip Hammond signalled the Government’s intent to tackle the dominance of tech giants by announcing a 2% Digital Services Tax in the Autumn Budget.

Alan Mak, MP and Chair of the All-Party Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, said that the report raises some “important issues that need to be addressed by business” and that “Britain has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be a world leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Speaking at Big Data LDN, he described the fourth industrial revolution as “just as important to the future of our economy as Brexit” but added that it is receiving “far less attention in all areas of other life, from Whitehall to the media.”

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