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The UK’s Technology ‘Hotbed’ Picks Up Steam

Each week, PYMNTS will cast a global spotlight on one of the many tech hubs sprouting up across the world. This Weekly Country Roundup will highlight the tech innovations, key initiatives and recent news from players and innovators within a particular nation.

This week’s edition takes us to the U.K., where we will take a deep dive into the bustling tech community and highlight many of the top tech stories to come out of the country this week.

London’s Got Its Eye On Startup Growth

It’s no surprise that many consider the U.K., and specifically London, to be a hotbed for cultivating fast-growing tech companies. In 2014 alone, British technology companies received over $795 million in investments from American investors.

The European Union has gained much attention in recent years for its support of economic plans that are designed specifically to help the creation and sustainability of startups, such as the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, The Next Web reported. With a fast-growing startup scene and countries in the region offering some of the most beneficial startup visas, it’s clear why both investors and businesses are flocking to the technology hotbed.

London-headquartered Tandem, an app-only bank that has plans to soon go public, revealed it secured £22 million in funding, bringing the company to a valuation of £65 million. The bank is expected to launch by the end of this year and its founder said the startup is on a mission to combat the big banks in the U.K. that aren’t focused on ensuring their customers are better off.

In an effort to not only enhance the FinTech landscape across the U.K. but to ensure investors and firms have greater access to the Asian market, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is building a “FinTech bridge” between the U.K. and Singapore. The regulatory cooperation agreement is designed to encourage knowledge sharing on financial services innovation between the respective markets while also establishing a mutually beneficial connection between the FinTech firms and their counterparts across the globe, Tech City News reported.

U.K.’s Love Of Tap-And-Pay

It’s no secret that Europeans have a love for contactless payments. But the latest data from Visa Europe show that one in five in-person card transactions are now being made with a contactless cards in the region. This translates to nearly 3 billion tap-and-pay transactions in Europe over the course of the last 12 months, tripling levels from a year ago.

As the number of contactless payments have risen, so has the average value of a swipe. According to Visa Europe, last month showed a 12 percent uptick in value in the 360 million or so uses of contactless cards that took place in April, bringing the average value to ~$15.75. “This kind of success hasn’t happened overnight, and it’s down to the sterling efforts across many teams at Visa and the wider payment industry making today’s achievement possible, while setting the stage for tomorrow’s technology, including new wearable devices and mobile payment services,” noted Tristan Kirchner, executive director of product management at Visa Europe.

In its “2016 U.K. Consumer Payment Study,” TSYS found that 97 percent of consumers in the U.K. said they are familiar with the emerging payment technology, with much of the contactless payment usage being concentrated in London. Card networks in the region have given European retailers until 2020 to adhere to the mandate that they must install payment terminals that are enabled to accept contactless payments, thus guaranteeing and even higher merchant acceptance rate.

The volume of contactless payments may also soon see expansion due to the forthcoming increase in spending limits, today that limit is set to £30, a significant increase from the previous £20 threshold.

Why IoT Just Keeps Booming

Just this week, a new report from MarketsandMarkets revealed that the Internet of Things (IoT) market is predicted to surge to over $661 billion by 2021, marking an annual growth rate of 33 percent compared to the estimated size of the market this year.

And guess which country is considered one of the major IoT market segments in the forecasted period? It’s Europe.

One of the U.K.’s largest global tech companies, Arm Holdings, has plans to contribute to the emerging “connected” market by increasing investments into new software and businesses focused on the IoT. The chip manufacturer’s CEO Simon Segars told The Financial Times that while there has been a global slowdown in the sales of smartphones, he sees opportunities for Arm to utilize new technologies and diversify its business – particularly in the IoT landscape.

London startup Drayson Technologies has its sights set on using a technology that harvests energy using radio frequency (RF) signals to power a range of low-consumption products, including many in the IoT and wearable space. TechCrunch reported that Drayson Technologies has raised £8 million in Series B funding to help develop its “Freevolt” technology and help to deliver more applications to the market.

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