London Mayor, Ford, Open Cleantech Hubs in U.K. Capital

The Mayor of London and Ford Motor Co. have both launched new cleantech hubs in the U.K. capital, as the city seeks to cement its place as a tech investment center one year after the Brexit vote.

Sadiq Khan Monday announced the launched of Better Futures, an incubator focused on clean-tech startups, while Ford also launched a new office focusing in part on autonomous vehicles.

Ford’s new venture will hire around 40 specialists and open later this year, and
is the carmarker’s third such “smart mobility” office. The others are in Dearborn, Michigan, and Palo Alto, California.  

Ford is set to trial a plug-in hybrid transit fleet in the U.K. this year.

“Basing our rapidly growing team here in the heart of mobility innovation in London is critical to accelerating our learning and development of new technologies,” said Steven Armstrong, group vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Ford Motor Co.

The announcements come almost a year after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. While a number of investors have been vocal about the future of London as a tech hub, a range of tech firms have been hiring and investing in London. Tech startup factory RocketSpace, which in San Francisco was home to companies such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Spotify Inc., recently opened a new office in London, while Google recently revealed plans for its giant new U.K. headquarters.

Ford’s new venture will be based at Here East, next to Plexal, the new 15 million pound tech hub based in East London, on the former site of the 2012 Olympics. The 6,300 square meter venture has room to support around 800 technology firms, according to a statement from London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s promotional agency.

Plexal and University College London have also launched the Global Disability Innovation Programme, a new accelerator focused on technology used to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.

London is part of a wider trend of major cities and local governments using clean tech, urban planning, and analytics in a bid to become so-called “smartcities” — where internet-connected devices collect data that can be used to tackle challenges from energy efficiency to traffic, crime and public health.

Sidewalk Labs LLC, the urban innovation unit of Alphabet Inc., recently applied to develop a 12-acre strip in downtown Toronto. Hitachi Ltd. is also working on a smart-grid project in Southwest England that seeks to combine renewable energy, battery storage and electric vehicles to balance power output and usage.

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