The UK’s government-funded cyber security accelerator has postponed its flagship event, LORCA Live, until later in the year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA), which is run by a private company but backed by £13.5m of state funding, took the decision to delay the 350-person gathering yesterday afternoon (13 March). A new date for the event, which had been planned for 19 March, has not yet been set, but it is expected to take place in June or September.
The move came as the government resisted pressure to ban large-scale events in order to contain the virus, which has killed more than 5,000 people around the world and infected over 139,000.
In a press conference yesterday afternoon, the government said it believed the cancellation of mass gatherings was one of the most ineffective ways of stemming the spread of the virus and that it would curb the peak of the UK outbreak by just 5 per cent.
NS Tech understands the decision to cancel LORCA Live was made by LORCA but followed discussions with its funders, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. A spokesperson for the incubator, which is run by an innovation agency called Plexal and based in the Olympic Park, said: “[We have] been closely observing developments around events due to take place either side of LORCA Live and monitoring government advice on the spread of COVID-19. In light of cancellations to other tech events, both big and small, and following LORCA’s own assessments, we believe the responsible course of action is to not convene a large group of people and enhance risk.”
The spokesperson added: “This is an opportunity for the tech industry to think differently about events. Whether fewer big venues, virtual conferences or more roadshow-style activity, we could see a shift in how events are curated in the near future.”
Hundreds of tech events around the world have been cancelled in recent weeks due to the viral outbreak, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China and has since spread to 135 countries. The organisers of Mobile World Congress cancelled the event last month after dozens of its biggest exhibitors withdrew. Google, Facebook and Microsoft have also pulled events, while a number of tech companies have instituted remote working policies as a form of “social distancing”.