The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a clear need for governments to communicate clearly and deliver effective messages, both in terms of how they were managing and preventing the spread of the virus, as well as updating the public on how different areas of society were affected, especially, education and health services. Throughout this worrying situation, at home, the public was listening, reading and scrolling attentively. An effective communication strategy was therefore essential to ensure that citizens viewed government policies, include national lockdowns and strict pandemic restrictions, as necessary to preserving public health.
But political leaders also required scientific and technical advice in responding to the pandemic crisis, whether in taskforces, committees, expert groups or panels. Here we see the role of the academic or researcher gaining importance – whether these are independent researchers or affiliated to a specific government department – and as the public sector has relied on these personalities, both their offline and online influence (including social media, media appearances, interviews, etc.) has increased. In the fifth edition of our Tyto Tech 500 research, we have found that, with the advent of the pandemic, the influence of individuals within the Government and Academia sectors has grown significantly within the past year.
Public sector and Academia at the top of our Tech 500
Our research found that business leaders and journalists continue to be the most prevalent influencer types in the Tech 500, constituting 60.7% and 18.8% respectively. In other words, eight out of every 10 influencers in our study belong to one of these two groups. Nonetheless, in 2021, the number of influencers from the academic sector increased by 74.4% and those from the government sector rose by 57.1%.
In fact, Academic and Government occupy the third and fourth positions in the ranking by type of influencers; 7.4% of the people in the Tech 500 rankings belong to one of these two groups.
This trend carried over into the pan-European Tech 500 Power List, but in this case the positions switched, with Government in third place (7.8%) and Academic in fourth place (5.8%). The percentage of influencers belonging to either of these two categories increased to 13.6%, which shows the great influence they have, occupying very prominent positions whether we examine their influence within each individual country or combined across all three.
Another interesting fact is, if we look at the top 100 positions on a pan-European level, 30% of the influencers are either members of governmental organisations or leading academics. Furthermore, by looking at the top 25 influencers, the percentage of representatives from these two categories of Government and Academia account for more than half: 52% to be precise. This proves that, although these are not the categories of influencers with the greatest numerical weight or volume, their representatives are clearly very significant. As a result, they are positioned at the very top of our research.
The top three influencers from these two categories combined consist of people linked to the UK government: Alok Sharma, Chris Whitty and Rishi Sunak. Alok Sharma is a UK politician serving as President for COP26 and Minister of State at the Cabinet Office. He was previously a Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Chris Whitty, as we mentioned in our previous HealthTech blogpost, is a British physician and epidemiologist serving as Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government since 2019. These two influencers – Alok Sharma and Chris Whitty – are also the most influential Tech 500 personalities in the GreenTech and HealthTech sectors, respectively. In the case of Rishi Sunak, his influence derives mainly from his position as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer since 2020, where he has an influence across various technology-related sectors, rather than on a single specific area.
The most influential member among the Academic category is French aerospace engineer, pilot, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Pesquet, currently the commander of the International Space Station, is ranked 25th in the overall Tech 500 and is the most prominent leader in the SpaceTech sector. In the Academic ranking we can also find Dr. Simon Evans, deputy editor and policy editor at Carbon Brief, as well as Professor Karol Sikora, one of the UK’s leading oncologists, and Dr. Matt Morgan, an intensive care doctor, author and lead for critical care research for Wales.
These are the top 10 Academic and Government influencers in the Tyto Tech 500:
- Thomas Pesquet – European Space Agency (FR)
- Simon Evans – Carbon Brief (UK)
- Karol Sikora – Rutherford Health (UK)
- Matt Morgan – Cardiff University (UK)
- Holger Schmidt – Netzökonom (DE)
- Alan Woodward – University of Surrey (UK)
- Charles Spence – Oxford University (UK)
- Doug Parr – Greenpeace (UK)
- François Balloux – University College London (UK)
- Noel Sharkey – University of Sheffield (UK)
- Alok Sharma – UK Government (UK)
- Christopher Whitty – Civil Service (UK)
- Rishi Sunak – UK Government (UK)
- Michael Gove – UK Government (UK)
- Patrick Vallance – UK Government (UK)
- George Eustice – UK Government (UK)
- Jens Spahn – German Government (DE)
- Kate Green – UK Government (UK)
- Peter Tschentscher – German Government (DE)
- Oliver Dowden – UK Government (UK)
Want to know who are the biggest tech influencers in the UK, Germany and France? Download the full Tyto Tech 500 report here.