The first Travel Technology incubator for London has already attracted 150 applicants looking to grab at least one of the 35 desks that will be made available.
The initiative from London & Partners, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s promotional organisation, will be based adjacent to City Hall in its offices overlooking the Thames.
At £400 a desk the opportunity isn’t cheap, but the incubator is offering an unparalleled opportunity for start-ups to establish themselves at the heart of the London travel and tourism industry and give access high level mentors and business investors.
The incubator is already working with Microsoft Ventures and is looking for other partners from the traditional travel sector or the wider business community and private equity investors.
These partners can either offer investment to go into a central pot or help to fund one of the start-ups. Once partners are in place they will help whittle down the applicants who will occupy the 35 desks.
Already potential future opportunities to expand the initiative beyond the London & Partners headquarters are being talked about.
Speaking at a preview event at the London & Partners office that will house the incubator on Tuesday night Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor for business and enterprise, said it was London’s ambition to add technology to financial services as a business sector it leads the world in.
He said a city that attracts more tourists than any other was the natural place for the world leading centre for travel technology.
“It seems logical given the importance of travel and tourism in London to try to integrate the fantastic creativity there is here in the technology sector with the fantastic creativity there is in travel,” he said.
Malthouse revealed that 27% of jobs in London are in the technology and digital sector and similar incubator initiatives in the other sectors like finance have proved successful.
“They are able to get 22 year old girls and boys who have a technology idea and expose them to big cheeses and therefore accelerate their growth and get their technology into big industries faster.
“What we hope to do in the travel industry is exactly the same thing – get people with great ideas and great skills and expose them to people in the industry and hoping that we create an incredible amount of wealth.
“We do not do a huge amount with our hands anymore in this town but we do a lot with our heads. We have an ambition over the next 10 or 20 years for the science and technology sector to grow and be our second string along with financial services.”