With recruitment to the third cohort of Sport Tech Hub underway, London Sport's Head of Corporate Communications, Chris Scott, looks at the reasons that SportTech is thriving in the capital.
Situated a few minutes’ walk from Euston station, the Wellcome Collection opened its doors in 2007 as a space for the “incurably curious”.
In its decade-and-a-bit, the Wellcome Collection has convened displays and exhibitions covering art, science, theory, medicine and performance that seek to challenge the ways that we think and feel about health.
Amid its exhibitions and display spaces, last month it played host to a brief event that showed decisively the ways that physical activity and sport are changing how we all think about our health in a modern world.
To an audience of physical activity organisations, technology bodies and app developers, the Minister for Sport and the Chief Executive of Sport England called for a sector-wide pledge to adopt and champion digital and data innovation to help ensure people across the nation are empowered to increase their levels of physical activity.
Calls for commitment to open data for sport may feel old hat, but their genesis is remarkably recent.
While the concept of open data dates back to the 1950s and the formation of the World Data Centre, acknowledgement of the role of open data in changing population-level physical activity levels in the UK only began to truly take hold in 2015 with the publication of government’s Sporting Future strategy.
The subsequent establishment of the OpenActive movement and the emergence of industry-wide advocacy has pulled sporting innovation forward with remarkable rapidity.
This work is welcome and important. But around the sector-wide drive for open data a bigger picture of innovation for physical activity and sport is emerging; and its benefits are being widely felt – nowhere more so than in London.
Earlier in 2019, SportsTechX published the 2019 European SportsTech Report – the second report that looked, in-depth, at the economic, investment and trend data for SportTech start-ups across Europe.
Its findings were spectacular; a Europe-wide annual investment of >€360m, 48 individual deals worth in excess of €1m and, intriguingly, data showing that London is the continent’s SportTech capital.
That report sparked a successor report, the first ever London SportsTech Report, which emphasised the economic strength of the capital’s SportTech industry.
While it remains a challenger when compared to some of London’s more mature tech verticals, financial indicators paint a clear picture: SportTech innovation is making a marked annual economic contribution in London.
As recently as 2015, a thriving SportTech scene was little more than a passing dream in London.
A lack of incubator and accelerator programmes, a fragmented market, minimal investment data and a lack of sector support meant that the start-ups that thrived were doing so in spite of the sector, not due to it.
Since then, London Sport’s Sport Tech Hub and ukactive’s ActiveLab programme have built a globally-recognised support infrastructure for new SportTech innovation, while government and Sport England’s enthusiasm for tech opportunities has driven up marketplace readiness.
The results are playing out in sport industry strategies, in investor behaviours, among tech developers and - perhaps most critically of all - in the hands of people, like those visiting the Wellcome Collection and further afield, who are using and benefiting from the range of new tech focused on getting people active.
Sport Tech Hub, London Sport’s SportTech innovation programme, is currently recruiting for its third cohort of SportTech start-ups. This year’s programme will focus on for main areas: children, young people and families; active ageing, social prescribing and managing health conditions; active urban living; and, re-imagining physical activity.
For more information and for start-up application packs, click here.