Building Ties with London

Photo 4Mayor of London Sadiq Khan recently visited Chicago to meet with Mayor Emanuel and strengthen trade and investment links between Chicago and London. The visit was Mayor Khan’s first visit to a U.S. city as mayor. World Business Chicago (WBC) helped sponsor and host various aspects of the valuable exchange.

“It’s great to see progressive politicians… being pro-business, pro-small business, thinking about the environment, thinking about future generations,” Khan said in the Chicago Tribune. “For me as a new mayor for London, coming to another global city and working and learning from Rahm is beginning a friendship I hope will bear fruit for Chicago and bear fruit for London.”

There are more than 300 UK-based companies at 650 locations in greater Chicago including Aon, BP, Diageo, Dyson, FirstGroup, HSBC, Pearson, Synovate, and Willis Group Holdings Ltd. According to data compiled by London & Partners, London is the leading global destination city for foreign direct investment from Chicago. In the last ten years more Chicago-based companies have chosen to set up in London than any other global city including Tokyo and Singapore, and significantly more than the nearest European cities of Amsterdam and Paris.

The visit kicked off with a dinner hosted by WBC for 30 of London’s fastest growing tech companies that are seeking investment and export opportunities in America. The group was led by the Deputy Mayor of London for Business and Enterprise/Chairman of London & Partners, Rajesh Agrawal. ChicagoNEXT Chairman Mark Tebbe introduced the delegation to Chicago’s thriving tech ecosystem and showcased ChicagoNEXT’s work to foster economic development and job growth in tech sectors; attract investment; and attract talent.

Both mayors then attended a Chicago Council on Global Affairs program, in which Mayor Khan, the first Muslim mayor of any major Western capital, discussed the breakdown of social integration – one of the biggest challenges facing cities around the world. You can watch his address here.

London’s tech companies also had the opportunity to meet with several of Chicago’s corporate and entrepreneurial leaders at 1871, a top-ranked tech incubator located in the Merchandise Mart. The meetings included a panel on how Chicago’s major companies, including Salesforce, JPMorgan Chase and Motorola Solutions, engage with startups from around the word. London Deputy Mayor Rajesh Agrawal then kicked off a roundtable discussion on promising London B2B tech “scale-ups.”

In addition, the event shined a spotlight on London and Chicago’s innovation ecosystems, highlighting opportunities for collaboration between Chicago and London. A second panel focused on cities as incubators for growth, and featured Mayor Emanuel, Mayor Khan, CME Ventures Executive Director Rumi Morales, and EnterpriseJungle Co-founder Emma Sinclair. The panel was moderated by WTTW’s Chicago Tonight Chief Correspondent and Host, Phil Ponce.

London and Chicago are international leaders in establishing open data portals as part of their commitments to improving citizen engagement and enhancing transparency and accountability to residents. While at 1871, Mayors Emanuel and Khan formalized a Memorandum of Understanding  that brings the cities together around the shared goal of open data as a tool to promote government innovation and economic development.

The mayors then visited the new Whole Foods Market in Englewood, where the two discussed recent neighborhood development initiatives and met with local suppliers and employees.

“London, like Chicago, is a world-class city, but we also have challenges in making sure all neighborhoods are participating in economic opportunities and growth,” Emanuel said to the Chicago Tribune.

The group continued on to UI Labs’ City Digital, where they discussed initiatives including underground infrastructure mapping and smart green infrastructure monitoring.

Following the tours, London companies that were a part of the delegation had the unique opportunity to pitch to local Venture Capital firms at AKTA’s Chicago office (a Salesforce company).

“The 30 companies travelling with us on the Mayor’s International Business Programme represent some of the most exciting London tech companies and demonstrate the vibrancy and diversity of London’s tech sector. London and Chicago have shared strengths in technology and innovation and a strong culture of entrepreneurship that will help cement opportunities and partnerships,” said Janet Coyle, Principal Adviser on the (London) Mayor’s International Business Programme.

Following the pitch, nearly 300 business and community leaders welcomed the London delegation in a dinner at the Art Institute of Chicago. A strong relationship was established between the mayors and business leaders and continued collaboration is expected in the weeks and years ahead.

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