London’s Mayor Boris Johnson has unveiled plans for a £100m fund to encourage entrepreneurs in the Middle East, who want to go global with their businesses, to set up an international hub in the UK capital.
The fund, which is still at the discussions stage, could launch within a year if talks are fruitful. It would primarily focus on financing technology start-ups, but could potentially be opened up beyond these.
Few details have been confirmed, but the money for the fund would come from the government of the UK and participating countries in the Muslim world. Johnson briefly mentioned the fund in his speech to the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in London, but did not flesh out the plans.
David Slater, director of international business development at London & Partners, the city’s promotional organisation, told IBTimes UK that while the fund was still in its concept stage, he hoped it would be up and running within six to twelve months.
He said there is a lot of public money being spent by Islamic countries on developing opportunities for their young people, among whom there is a flourishing start-up culture on which the UK is looking to capitalise.
“The idea was to create a fund, harnessing what’s happening in the Islamic world and saying to these young entrepreneurs, as you internationalise, not to take you out of Jordan and put you in London, but internationalise through London and see if we can create a fund that enables that to happen,” Slater said.
He said the UK had been using the WIEF event in London, at which leaders such as the Sultan of Brunei and the King of Jordan have been speaking, to gauge interest in the fund.
“There isn’t yet too much detail on what it’s going to look like, its criteria and all the rest of it. It’s really the concept that[Boris Johnson] is talking about,” Slater said.
“I think there’s no-one who opposes the concept, but you start people to say ‘were in for x’ or ‘we’re in for y’ and you build it beyond just a lot of promises, that’s where we are.”
He added: “I think it’s exciting, but I can’t give you any more detail. It’s a really good idea and I think people are open to it and I think that, actually, it won’t just be good for us, but good for the entrepreneurs. It’s now bringing it to fruition.”
In his WIEF speech, Johnson highlighted how many of London’s large projects, such as the Qatari-backed Shard, rely on Islamic finance.