Techsauce speaks with Natalie Black, His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific, on how the UK tech sector can potentially advance Southeast Asia’s ecosystem to the next level.
As Southeast Asia’s internet economy is projected to exceed US$360 billion by 2025, there is great potential for new partnerships. With the aim to empower the ecosystem much more, the UK government recently organized the UK-Southeast Asia Tech Week to create more connections on the issues of the Internet of Things and Technologies for Net Zero.
With the upcoming London Tech Week and the Techsauce Global Summit this summer, Techsauce speaks to Natalie Black, His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific, on how the UK tech sector can potentially advance Southeast Asia’s ecosystem to the next level.
Natalie says the UK tech sector has proven its ability to maintain a good track record as it is now one of the only three countries in the world that is worth US$1 trillion along with the United States and China. The UK also has a huge number of unicorns, more than 160 in fact, which means the UK has a track record in growing innovative startups to a global scale. This is exactly what many companies in Southeast Asia are looking to do so there are a lot of opportunities for partnerships with the UK.
What makes the UK attractive is its deep research history and its talent. With four of the top universities in the world based in the UK, the UK has a history of really strong research and development. This has led to many spinouts, new discoveries, and new tech companies. Natalie says there is exceptional talent in the UK as it is able to attract many bright and exciting individuals who want to bring their businesses to the UK and grow their businesses in the UK. People who want to change the world, who want to make a difference, and are very excited and committed to the UK tech ecosystem.
Now that the UK is a dialogue partner of ASEAN, it has been focused on digital and innovation partnership as it takes its seat at the table as a trusted partner of the region. After talking with ASEAN members, the area that many countries want to work on in the UK is digital innovation. The UK Government sees great opportunities to grow a respective economy and the need to develop more digital and innovative jobs, which will help broaden both sides’ economies in the years to come.
Natalie says the UK has already launched the first ever digital innovation partnership in ASEAN, which is finding new ways to work together on issues like skills and attracting investment, in particular venture capital. The UK is third in the world for attacking venture capital into the ecosystem so Natalie says her country has experience to share and is also very keen on learning from Southeast Asia.
This resulted in the first ever UK-Southeast Asia Tech Week from 13 - 17 March 2023, where the Department for International Trade (DIT) took a delegation of leading UK tech companies to commercially focused engagements with influential business and government representatives from across the region. The cities included in the tour were Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Manilla. At the events, British startups were very excited about the opportunities to partner with businesses in Southeast Asia. They were able to meet directly with innovators, potential partners, meet potential investors, and talk about how they can work together in the coming years.
The turnout was very impressive and there was an inundation of requests for meetings. After over 24 hours, there were beginnings of quite formal partnerships that have the potential to be cemented by other events in Southeast Asia in the coming months. Among the much anticipated events is London Tech Week from the 12th to the 16th of June. The event is expected to bring together 20,000 people, not only from the UK tech ecosystem, but from around the world. There are expectations that a lot of individuals will be traveling from Southeast Asia to London.
Natalie says there have been many Thai companies that have successfully formed partnerships and leveraged the UK’s Global Entrepreneur Program to scale their businesses globally. UK companies have also been able to enter the Thai market as well. They come from various sectors, ranging from the auto to the property industries.
Tractable is a good case study, as the UK business founded in 2014 created AI tools for world-leading companies in the auto and property industries by helping insurers improve their claim journey and enable fast, accurate damaged appraisal. With the support of the program, Tractable AI entered Thailand in 2019 and has since won several industry-leading clients, with 7 insurers in production to date and over 20x increase in claim volume in 2021.
Meticuly on the other hand, was able to move its headquarters from Thailand to the UK. The company which creates personalized 3D medical devices participated in the Global Entrepreneur Program and joined the London Tech Week in 2022. It is now bringing £8.5 million in investment and creating 25 new jobs in the UK.
Another company, DeeMoney, participated in the UK’s Global Entrepreneur Program and is in the process of moving its HQ to the UK. This has been recorded and approved as an £3.79m investment win, creating 35 new jobs in the UK.
There are still more successful case studies, which proves the initiative has been quite successful.
Natalie expects to see much from the areas of digital trade and net zero for the rest of 2023.
Digital trade will make business easier and faster, benefiting not only tech companies, but all companies. Digital trade can help businesses counter issues such as challenges around the supply chain and shortages of some goods and services. Natalie expects it to be a big trend.
Net zero and sustainability is also a trend among companies across Southeast Asia. Now there are commitments on decarbonization of operations. The tech sector can support companies that do not know how to do it. Natalie believes the tech sector will play an important role in making the region more sustainable and responsible.
Overall the UK is keen to play a part and these two big themes will be featured at the London Tech Week where Natalie hopes to bring a big delegation from across Southeast Asia to the UK. The UK in the meanwhile is keen to learn from companies in Southeast Asia as ASEAN’s digital economy is projected to hit $1 trillion by 2030.
She is looking forward to Techsauce Global Summit in Bangkok too, which will take place August 16-17th. There has also been the launch of Tech Thailand Advocates, with Techsauce Media leading the partnership with Global Tech Advocates to support the tech ecosystem in Thailand to enhance the quality of life and drive social innovation.