The Tech City UK Initiative, launched by David Cameron in November 2010, hailed East London’s technology hub as the answer to the original Californian technology Mecca, Silicon Valley.
The government has partnered with budding entrepreneurs in technology clusters in East London to develop, support and provide practical advice on how to nurture the innovative companies coming to fruition.
However, despite leading global technology companies including, Cisco, Intel and Google, pledging their support for the initiative, there remains to be seen a concrete commitment to base themselves in the East. Neither Facebook, Google nor Twitter have made plans to move to the bohemian technology hub – Facebook has recently confirmed its new offices in Covent Garden.
However, while courting large American companies would guarantee additional investment into the up and coming Silicon Roundabout, it can’t be forgotten that the vast and explosive growth of small-to-medium sized and highly specialised businesses during the recession in this area can be seen as a remarkable feat.
Even more so when considering that the myriad of highly technology based businesses emerged without any government support, or direct links to universities and lacking in initial investment – but it is already one of the UK’s many technology clusters.
West of London, The M4 corridor, is by no means as glamorous or as trendy as Silicon Roundabout, but it proves that substance can be greater than style as it is the hub of the British IT and telecoms industry – but why?
Excellent motorway and rail networks, easy access to London’s Heathrow airport and the English language attracted the early American investors looking for a toehold in the European market, and so the technology cluster grew.
North-east of London, “Silicon Fen” has seen the emergence of innovative and influential technology companies based in the flatlands surrounding Cambridge. These include ARM and Autonomy and inward investment in the area has come from the likes of Microsoft and Google, that are keen to employ graduates and post-graduates – grabbing a slice of the intellectual property that the world-famous University generates.
Native entrepreneurs too have not only benefitted from the brains trust but also by being less than an hour away from London, one of the world’s centres for early-stage finance.
Silicon Fen has hit the headlines recently with HP’s planned acquisition of Autonomy – raising the question among certain commentators on whether acquisitions limit the economy through the lack of job creation, or create more money for investors to pump back into the economy or even if it is an inevitable part of Britain’s future.
In order to woo larger successful technology companies to the UK we need smaller, innovative companies that cater for a particular niche to draw their attention or to come over to the UK.
I am proud to be part of such an entrepreneurial heritage and surrounded by global talent. Recent figures from CWJobs reveals that there has been a surge of technology career interest and an 18 per cent year-on-year increase in IT vacancies with developers accounting for up to 39 per cent of all jobs advertised.
Although the UK doesn’t have a technology-focused venture capital industry, it has succeeded in creating and sustaining fast-growth digital companies, including desktop applications for social media, travel itinerary social networking service and specialists in augmented reality solutions.
While the Government and its partners have provided £1 million support to demonstrate their commitment and belief in the technology hub, London’s Silicon Roundabout was turning with ideas, innovation and intelligence before the Tech City UK Initiative and it is likely to continue without the physical commitment to the Initiative from other leading companies.