Matt Hancock bids to nurture more ‘unicorn’ companies

The Tory leadership hopeful said he was ‘back among my people’ as he addressed London Tech Week.

Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he wants Britain “to be the world leader in unicorns”.

The Conservative Party leadership candidate told delegates at London Tech Week he wants to see a greater number of start-up firms valued at more than 1 billion US dollars – known as unicorns.

Mr Hancock, who used to work for his family’s software business and last year became the first MP to launch his own smartphone app, arrived on stage telling of his pride at being “back among my people”.

He said: “Not a fax machine or a pager in sight. Just lots of unicorns.

“And believe you me, if you’ve been stuck in the debate about the future of Brexit over the past few months, you might have heard that there have been a few unicorns that have been promoted.

“I say that we need to create more unicorns, I want Britain to be the world leader in unicorns, I want us to be driving ahead and building the great business that we can be very proud of.”

The UK tech sector has produced one unicorn firm each month over the past year, according to new figures released ahead of London Tech Week.

Data compiled by Tech Nation and Dealroom revealed the UK produced 13 firms valued at more than 1 billion US dollars (£784 million) over the past year, taking its overall total to 72.

Mr Hancock said there are lessons that can be learned between the technology and health industries.

Unicorn companies
Figures show the UK produced 13 so-called unicorn firms over the past year (PA)

He said: “There are two different cultures and two different languages. In technology the mantra of old, of course, is to move fast and break things.

“In health, that’s not such a good mantra all the time. Like if you’re an orthopaedic surgeon, for example.

“It’s difficult to bring the two together, but important that we do.

“The world of healthcare can learn a lot from you. But there are also things the technology world should learn from healthcare.

“I want Britain to be defined in the years ahead as the most pro-enterprise, pro-start-up place in the world.

“We deal every day in improving lives and saving lives, and the tech that improves lives in health has perhaps the most direct impact on the population we serve than anything else.”

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