2021 was a record-breaking year for the technology and media sector, with unprecedented levels of inbound investment and European tech unicorns growing considerably, increasing 40 per cent to 321 in just 12 months. The pandemic has benefited many businesses in the sector, from industries as wide ranging as digital advertising to remote collaboration, but has also posed challenges, most notably in the availability of experienced staff as the sector grapples with “the great resignation.”
As 2021 draws to a close, our team of technology and media specialists across the UK reflect on a momentous year for the sector and offer their predictions for the year ahead:
UK film and TV production
There has been a record spend on UK film and high-end TV production in the UK this year, and with the building of new studios in the Herts area this year for the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Sky (see the article on my LinkedIn profile), this will drive more of it (if they can get over crew shortage issues). Can “Hertswood” overtake Hollywood?
Richard Heap, London
Video games – has grown at breakneck speed over the last two years. Many of the biggest industry majors have already launched or announced plans to launch cloud gaming services (including Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Tencent) – but will Netflix achieve success like it has with film? (I think it’s too soon to make predictions about the metaverse, but it’s been talked about a lot this year)
Richard Heap, London
I’m looking forward to greater personal interaction in 2022 – but I’m also hoping to make increased use of virtual reality. Whether this be empty shops in retail outlets turned into VR experiences, game rooms or even wider uses such as VR fitness-based apps or VR workrooms for remote workers. Will this be the year that VR becomes more mainstream?
Andy Grey, Bristol
I’m looking forward to seeing further advances in Food Tech. Advances in aeroponic vertical farming is bringing food production closer to (and into) city centres. 2021 has seen a boom in the variety of meat analogues (substitutes) which is increasing consumer interest and acceptance of these alternatives to meat. These advances are supported by a growing number of Tech enabled companies and communities based on recipe sharing and food delivery. Advances in Food Tech are not always automatically better for the environment but most of these emerging technologies have the potential to be planet positive – which is a win-win situation.
Ben Bilsland, Bristol
Cybercrime is an old story, but with the growth of bitcoin and even more online activity relating to financial services, this is bound to be a key theme for 2022. On the ground, we are seeing a growing number of tech businesses offering cybercrime solutions, which will no doubt be fuelled by increasing levels of on-line theft. Sophistication of phishing attacks are also on the increase which will also help to make this a hot focus for tech in the twelve months ahead.
David Blacher, London
With increased home / hybrid working due to Covid 19 and lots of businesses adopting home/remote working as a permanent fixture within their people policies, IT and digital security services and products have seen an increase in demand. This has generated M&A activity involving cyber security businesses. We forsee a continuing increase in R&D and new solution development in the cyber security space as cyber businesses and entrepreneurs continue to innovate to protect their clients from increasingly sophisticated cyber criminals. We also expect growth in the appetite for investing in or acquiring businesses with innovative, robust cyber security solutions that generate recurring revenues.
Ross Stupart, Edinburgh
The automotive sector is going to see further innovation alongside continued challenges with supply chain issues. Electric vehicle sales exceeded expectations in 2021 and there is no sign of that abating in 2022 with manufacturers struggling to keep up with demand. Charging infrastructure is seen as the main obstacle to the widespread adoption of EVs so we expect to see significant investment during 2022 and potential efficiency improvements through technological advancement. We also expect manufacturers to race to increase battery and mileage capacity whilst not negatively impacting performance, will we see car batteries capable of 500+ miles by the end of the year?
Simon Browning, Nottingham
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a core technological focus for many years but continues to develop rapidly. 2022 is likely to see further advances, as more and more businesses - from all sectors and of all sizes - look to benefit from the use of AI. For example, businesses will be looking at hybrid working and trying to ensure smoother communication/collaboration and additional functionality; this would be driven by data and would lend itself perfectly to remote workers, for instance where more and more tasks may become automated. Another example of where AI may become more prominent is with video – given the ever-increasing levels of content (and therefore data), it is envisaged that more deep-learning based products would be developed.”
Matt Appleton, Basingstoke
Further digitalisation and innovation
Technology and innovation go hand in hand, and in 2022 I expect to see the technology sector continue to find solutions to some of the world’s most challenging issues. The ability to gather, collate and share timely data on COVID19 has played a crucial role in the global response to the pandemic, and in 2022 I expect the NHS to invest further in digitising and integrating various care systems and patient records to improve the quality of care and increase efficiency. 2022 will also be the year that EVs go mainstream, with many traditional car makers and start up disrupters releasing new models and transitioning more of their fleet to electric, with a resulting improvement in air quality. Innovations in construction, international travel and renewable energy production will also make a positive impact on our carbon usage in 2022.
Saxon Moseley, London
The ongoing Covid 19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of development and deployment of wearable medical monitoring devices, particularly in private medicare territories such as the US. Current Health a UK based ‘care at home platform’ was recently acquired by US based Best Buy. We expect the momentum generated in the medtech, digital health and virtual care sector throughout 2021 to continue in to 2022 with care at home / virtual care solutions continuing to evolve and become more embedded within society as traditional hospital/surgery/pharmacy locations continue to be overstretched with Covid19 demand.
Ross Stupart, Edinburgh
Digital advertising and social media
Digital advertising has seen unprecedented levels of growth post pandemic and there seem to be no signs of this slowing down in the coming year. With the ability to tell compelling stories, the demand for personalised advertising has never been greater. The surge in the use of short videos and the power of AI have been received positively by consumers who feel a part of the journey and are provided with a raw and unpolished perspective just for them. The use of short videos has taken off in 2021 with social media platforms including TikTok leading the way but I believe 2022 will take this to a new level and the creativity will continue from agencies around the world.
Mandy Girder, London
This could be the year that we see rapid progress in Web 3.0, the much hyped “next step” of the internet, based on blockchain technology. One of the key attractions to some of Web 3.0 is that it is a decentralised technology and could provide individuals with the ability to control more of their personal data on the internet. In time, the development of AI technology combined with this could result in a “smarter” internet experience. Something more akin to the idea of the “semantic web” idea conceived by Tim Berners Lee, a more intelligent and intuitive web experience. There was some substantial growth of businesses involved with Web 3.0 projects in 2021 and many expect activity in this space to escalate this year.
Chris Etherington, Leeds