A group of 10 local tech startups will visit the U.K. with hopes to expand their global business footprint. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

British Airways Flight Paving Way for Pittsburgh Tech Sector in the UK

For Pittsburgh’s burgeoning technology sector, the start of nonstop service to London Heathrow on British Airways offers more than an opportunity to sightsee in one of the world’s greatest cities.

The flight, launched in April 2019, opens a window of opportunity for local tech startups to connect with London-based companies as well as explore the possibility of expanding offices in the U.K.

Pittsburgh’s technology ecosystem is dependent on international connections and presence to drive its growth,” said Audrey Russo, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Technology Council.

This month, the Technology Council announced a partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade (DIT) and British Airways to help 10 Pittsburgh startups visit the U.K. as they consider the area for office expansions. Pittsburgh-area businesses were invited to apply on the DIT website, with ideal applicants having at least 15 full-time employees globally, considering international expansion and an interest in establishing a physical office in the U.K.

Antony Phillipson, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America of the DIT, explained that the two regions have a strong economic relationship, as the U.K. is Pittsburgh’s fourth-largest export market. Over the past few years, Pittsburgh has supported the U.K. through $290 million spent in services and $80 million in goods, according to Phillipson.

“We look forward to helping these companies grow and expand in the future, while continuing to strengthen the strong economic relationship between us,” Phillipson added.

One of the companies selected, BoardBookit, is gaining popularity in Europe and plans to use the trip to investigate whether it will make sense to open an office in the U.K., according to CEO Marion Lewis.

“We have a growing international client base, and while we are supporting them from the United States right now, at some point it might make sense for us to have local offices [in the United Kingdom],” said Lewis.

Based in Green Tree, Pennsylvania, BoardBookit develops modern tools to aid companies with corporate governances such as a board of directors.

“We’re fortunate in Pittsburgh to have a really growing and thriving community of technology companies that we are part of, and to be one of the few chosen is really a validation of what we are trying to do and a marker of our successes so far,” she added.

Lawrenceville-based Edge Case Research specializes in testing and validating software for autonomous systems and has expanded to include offices in Munich, Germany, with interest in expanding to the U.K., as well.

“We are a global company and are expanding into other markets, which makes this trip very timely because we have been having ongoing conversations with potential customers in the U.K.,” said Jackie Erickson, senior director of communications.

“As a Pittsburgh-based autonomy safety software company working on autonomous vehicles, we are seen as the headquarters for software and testing development, and bringing our skill sets to the U.K. is invaluable not only to our customers, but to the industry and creating this more connected partnership between Pittsburgh and London,” she said.

The five-day trip, scheduled for Oct. 6-11, will include tours of London, Bristol, Manchester and Cardiff. In partnering with the DIT and the Pittsburgh Technology Council, British Airways is providing tickets on the nonstop to London for the group.

“British Airways is delighted to be a partner in this Pittsburgh to London tech mission,” said Nicolas Krohne, VP-Commercial Sales, North America for British Airways. “This city’s growth into a tech, artificial intelligence and biomedicine hub is a major reason why launching our direct four times a week, year-round service from Pittsburgh to London Heathrow was the right commercial choice for us. And we’re delighted by the strong support we’ve been shown by our corporate partners, Pittsburgh International Airport, and area residents. As an innovation leader in the aviation industry for the past 100 years, we’re so pleased to support these emerging Pittsburgh tech leaders and help them discover the U.K. and European markets.”

The nonstop flight to London on British Airways is operated year-round with four flights per week.

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