LONDON — The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is continuing to promote London as a global city despite Brexit, announcing on Thursday two new initiatives backed by Spanish companies in the Capital.
As part of a week-long public relations drive that included trips to European capitals, Khan is announcing on Thursday that Telefonica and Ferrovial are opening new facilities in London in partnership with the Greater London Authority (GLA).
The Mayor, a Labour politician who campaigned to remain in Europe, says the announcements demonstrate that “despite Brexit, business leaders in Europe realise that London will remain a key partner in business, investment, talent, ideas and friendship.”
Telecoms giant Telefonica, which owns O2, is expanding its Wayra UK startup accelerator programme, opening a new facility in Haringey. Wayra helps startups develop their businesses, offering mentoring, investment, and office space. It already has an office in London and one in Cheltenham in collaboration with GCHQ.
The new Wayra Haringey facility is backed by the council and the GLA, as well as former England and Arsenal footballer, and one-time Mayoral hopeful, Sol Campbell. (Ironically, Cambell was a vocal campaigner to leave the EU.) Wayra Haringey will support 10 startups a year.
Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, which helps manage the traffic at Heathrow airport, is also on Thursday announcing “the Londoners’ Lab”, a collaboration between GLA, Ferrovial Services, University College London, and the government-backed Future Cities Catapult research programme.
The “Londoners’ Lab” will focus on coming up with solutions to improve recycling in flats and multiple occupancy houses in a bid to improve recycling rates.
Both projects are drops in the ocean for Telefonica and Ferrovial in financial and resource terms. Both also benefit from support from the GLA. However, Khan is seizing upon them as evidence of London’s continued attractiveness to businesses post-Brexit.
Khan says in a statement:
“These announcements demonstrate that, despite Brexit, business leaders in Europe realise that London will remain a key partner in business, investment, talent, ideas and friendship. Our city was the only region in England to vote to remain in the EU, it is still the best place in the world to do business and our collaboration with other major European cities will not cease.”
Khan spent two days touring European capitals and meeting with European leaders to bang the drum for London as a place to do business. The tour was originally meant to be a week but was cut to two days following the Westminster attack. The trip was planned to coincide with the triggering of Article 50, which happened on Wednesday and began the two-year Brexit negotiation process.
Santiago Olivares, CEO of Ferrovial Services, says in an emailed statement: “London is definitely a global reference in urban innovation, a forward-thinking city which is making great progress on key issues such as data-driven management, citizen engagement and circular economy.”
In a bid to forge greater links between London and Spain, 21 “smart city” businesses from London are also accompanying Deputy Mayor Rajesh Agrawal on a trip to Madrid this week to discuss how to develop smart cities, which in effect mean data-driven solutions to modern infrastructure issues.
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