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LTW speaker spotlight: IBM UK CEO Nicola Hodson



In our latest spotlight of this year’s London Tech Week speakers, UKTN caught up with Dr Nicola Hodson, CEO of IBM UK and Ireland.

Hodson previously held several senior positions at Microsoft, where she worked for 14 years. She formerly worked in the IT and business services division of Siemens, at CSC (now DXC), as a management consultant for EY and at BNFL. Currently, Hodson is also the deputy president of the trade association techUK.

Ahead of London Tech Week, which takes place 10-12 June at Olympia, Hodson spoke with UKTN about supporting London’s scaleups, the power of ecosystems, and cutting through the AI hype.

1. What’s the London tech scene’s biggest competitive advantage?

Nicola Hodson: In a word: ecosystem. London is home to Europe’s largest tech community, bringing together a powerful combination of talent from world-class universities, startups, scaleups and large enterprises, together with rich funding opportunities from our outstanding financial services industry.

This makes London a fertile ground for tech startups and a magnet for global talent. The UK is one of the few countries in the world to have a $1tn tech sector and our AI capabilities are ranked third globally after the US and China.

2. If you could pick one way to improve London’s tech sector, what would it be?

NH: London is very good at cultivating startups and dominates Europe’s startup scene. What London and the UK more broadly needs to get better at is enabling scaleups to thrive, instead of looking abroad.

Only 1% of UK SMEs are scaleups, yet these companies generate nearly £500bn of turnover. Helping these businesses to flourish will create more home-grown, global tech leaders.

3. How do you see the rest of 2024 playing out for the tech market?

NH: There is enormous demand for technology and expertise in digital transformation skills in the UK – and we believe this will grow significantly. Organisations’ appetite to gain tangible value from AI will be a major driver of this demand.

IBM’s IBV research shows that only 37% of large-scale UK companies have deployed AI, while 41% are experimenting with it. This year we will see more organisations move from AI pilots into real-world applications, as AI adoption builds momentum across all industries.

4. Name a speaker who you’re looking forward to seeing at London Tech Week?

NH: I am looking forward to hearing from Wendy Redshaw, chief digital information officer, NatWest Group and Stephan Pretorius, chief technology officer, WPP, both of whom will join me on stage at the opening of London Tech Week.

IBM and NatWest have partnered on the bank’s responsible AI strategy, including evolving their conversational AI, Cora, into an intelligent virtual agent that uses generative AI to provide more intuitive, conversational customer experiences.

And we also have a deep strategic partnership with WPP who are continuing to strengthen their AI capabilities and expertise through their own AI-powered marketing operating system WPP Open.

5. What do you expect to be the biggest themes coming out of this year’s London Tech Week?

NH: Organisations want to cut through the hype around AI and understand how they can get real value from it. We are already seeing our clients making very tangible gains in productivity, customer satisfaction and cost savings by deploying AI effectively.

But with this opportunity comes the responsibility to make sure we are using AI transparently, ethically and compliantly. If people can’t trust AI, they won’t realise its benefits. So, the theme of trustworthy AI will remain a big talking point throughout this week.

You can see Hodson speak on 10 June at 10:00 on the Headline Keynotes stage in a discussion titled ‘How Business is Seizing the AI Opportunity

Book your London Tech Week pass here.

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