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Technology hub London risks losing its status

Barcelona, Amsterdam, Berlin.

Those are the cities that could replace London as Europe’s technology hub now that the British people have narrowly voted to separate from the European Union.

If London loses its premier status, CIOs in England’s glittering capital — and elsewhere in the tech-rich United Kingdom — will have even more trouble recruiting hard-to-find talent.

Programmers, developers and other IT folks from all over Europe have long journeyed to London to seek their fortunes — or at the very least, a start to their careers, said Forrester Research analyst Laura Koetzle.

London is the technology capital of Europe. But following the EU referendum, other cities could take its place.

Tech hub no more?

Often, they go straight from college to a notoriously expensive city, she said, “knowing that they’re not going to have that much money, and they’re going to live in a stinky flat share … because it’s the best market in Europe, where they can rise the fastest and do the most interesting things.”

But as legislators work out details of the split over the next two years, the immigration status of thousands will be thrust into uncertainty. If it’s too hard to stay in London, many tech workers will go someplace else.

Barcelona, Spain, or Amsterdam, Netherlands — cosmopolitan cities with flourishing IT sectors and relatively lower costs of living — are likely alternatives, Koetzle said. Berlin or Stockholm, Sweden, could also take the title of technology hub.

Venture capitalists, too, seeing less promise, could move to talent-friendlier shores, as could their startup protégés.

Keeping the capital’s gain

To keep the talented Europeans they already have, Koetzle wrote in a paper released after the EU referendum, London-based CIOs should give themselves a new title: chief retention officer. As the government sorts out visa and immigration policies, CIOs’ challenge will be to convince their European workers to go through what could be a lot of extra effort to stay in a country that’s not so easy to live and work in anymore.

One suggestion: Get hipper. Start by giving workers the social media and collaboration tools they want to use, such as Skype and Slack.

“Further, revitalize your tired old ‘back-office campus’ as a cool, vibrant place to work in order to keep your star developers,” Koetzle wrote.