New strategy group will amplify London’s dominance in edtech


Education is going digital, but you’d be amiss to think that all that education startups have to offer is glorified tutoring. The industry is exploding with a clear international ground zero: London.

Launched just three weeks ago, Edtech UK is an outgrowth of the Education Foundation and its two-year-old Edtech Incubator program. While the foundation is a think tank, the new body’s self-declared goal is to function as a strategic body to accelerate growth of the industry in Britain, much like the local Innovate Finance has for fintech and MedCity for medtech. As with a number of UK projects, the emphasis is on scale-ups, high-growth companies, and the beginnings of dealing with regulation.

The new organization launched with an umbrella report on the London edtech ecosystem, estimating education exports in general to be worth £17.5 billion already and perhaps as much as £30 billion by 2020.

“Organizations for other sectors started to emerge in the UK that changed the dynamics a bit and we felt an incubator or an accelerator wasn’t addressing enough of the industry,” co-founder and British education technology czar Ian Fordham told Geektime.

The organization is an incubatee and outgrowth of the UK-based Education Foundation (which Fordham co-founded with Ty Goddard). It is also related to the 2013-born and TechCity UK co-sponsored Edtech Incubator, which will assume a subsidiary function to the new group.

Ian Fordham, co-founder of the Education Foundation and Edtech UK (CC-ND 2.0 Adam Tinworth via Flickr)
Ian Fordham, co-founder of the Education Foundation and Edtech UK (CC-ND 2.0 Adam Tinworth via Flickr)

Fordham accompanied London Mayor Boris Johnson’s tech delegation to Tel Aviv in mid-November. Three startups who are among the organization’s 25 founding companies were also in attendance: Gojimo, Proversity, and RefME. They toured the city with stops at Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and Google’s startup space Campus Tel Aviv, with Fordham emphasizing his group was keen to build partnerships with companies in the also impressive Israeli edtech sector.

“We were helping teacher entrepreneurs with no idea where to take it. We created the Edtech Incubator a couple years ago to connect different bits of the ecosystem,” Fordham explained to Geektime on the sidelines of the mayor’s visit, adding it was time to scale further and turn the group into a front door for the local industry.

The edtech underground


Map of London-based edtech companies from Edtech UK's industry report (screenshot)
Map of London-based edtech companies from Edtech UK’s industry report (screenshot)

Ten of the 20 fastest growing edtech startups in Europe are in the UK, according to Edtech Europe. Edtech UK’s launch report claims 200 education startups and SMEs are headquartered in London and the city hosts five of the world’s top 50 universities: University College London, Imperial College London, Kings College London, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The industry is developing around e-learning but the innovation in the industry isn’t just the technology but exploiting new methodologies and disciplines for instruction. With an abundance of teaching, school-enhancing and online learning platforms constituting just a fraction of the education-related companies growing in London, Fordham wants to tap a global $67.8 billion edtech sector and to make sure the bulk of the industry is in British hands when it reaches an estimated $243.8 billion value by 2022 (Edtech UK’s estimate).

The group already has partnerships with accelerators Wise Initiative and BETT Futures. They graduated their first class of “teacherpreneurs” in February 2014, running startups like math platform Timestable Rockstars, collaborative learning platform GroupU, Doodle Maths, Equation Lab, DreamLeaners, and the Enjoy Education Virtual Platform. The organization is also carrying over the 2014 Digital Colleges initiative that is either advancing the integration of new technologies in established universities or supporting the development of fully digital-from-birth digital colleges like Proversity.

Even though they are working on current initiatives, they may be serving more as a foundation for the next generation of higher education.

“There are big moves on the digital maker movement which has been generally under-exploited in education, a hybrid of tech and physical infrastructure, and I don’t think we have really seen the start of e-learning and corporate e-learning bridging the gap in the digital economy,” Fordham told Geektime on the sidelines of the mayoral delegation’s visit to Campus Tel Aviv.

The organization is run by CEO Ian Fordham (@ianfordham), Head of Biz Dev Ben Barton (@bartoneducation) and Chair Ty Goddard (@ty_goddard).

For a full list of the 25 founding companies of Edtech UK, check them out below.


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