Cabinet minister Matt Hancock says the government will do everything in its power to put the UK and London at the centre of the global sharing economy
With the recent news that London is leading the European sharing economy, yesterday's Breakers to Makers conference, hosted by background-checking startup Onfido, could hardly have been timelier. An audience of sharing-economy leaders, investors and policymakers gathered on the bank of Regent's Canal and passionately discussed what lies ahead for the industry that PwC predicts to be worth $335bn globally by 2025.
One of the hot topics of the evening was the need for regulation and a legislative landscape befitting the needs of sharing economy companies and their customers. Thankfully, there were some encouraging words from Matt Hancock, minister for the cabinet office and paymaster general, who laid out the government's support for British sharing economy startups. "We're absolutely determined to make Britain the best place that we can for growing businesses in the sharing economy," said Hancock. "But I recognise that a lot of the rules and regulations that I'm now responsible for were designed in a completely different era. We have got to go through all of those rules and regulations and change them to make the playing field as level as possible."
Hancock praised Debbie Wosskow, the founder and CEO of Love Home Swap, for the independent review she conducted into how the UK could, and should, become a leader for the global sharing economy. It led to the establishment of trade body Sharing Economy UK (SEUK), which Wosskow now chairs. However, Hancock admitted the government still has some serious work ahead of it. "There are still things we need to do and I want to make sure that we are at the front of this constantly evolving situation," he said. "There are other countries snapping at our heels that want to find all of the best innovators and take them away. I don't want that to happen. I want it all to happen right here in the UK and right here in London."
These sentiments were shared by the evening's keynote speaker Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital and recently-elected chair of Tech City UK. Burbidge said that, with the right legislation, Britain can be at the centre of the sharing economy for years to come. "[It is] my genuine belief that Britain is really going to lead digital […] for the rest of the industrialised world," she said. "While there might be a greater number of sharing economy startups in Europe and San Francisco, you don't have the regulatory environment, the progressive lawmakers and the policymakers who actually understand what is driving the motivation and consumer adoption for these services. But we also need to modernise the legislative environment in order to enable and encourage this even more."
With Hancock admitting to being an Uber user, we'd say the future looks pretty rosy indeed.