The story so far
Following Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement on 4th November 2010 of the development of ‘Tech City,’ East London is set to be transformed into the British equivalent of Silicon Valley. The development of ‘Tech City’ is part of a Government programme to create new jobs, diversify the economy and support sustainable economic growth.
On announcing the programme the Prime Minister noted:
“Right now, Silicon Valley is the leading place in the world for high-tech growth and innovation. But there’s no reason why it has to be so predominant. Our ambition is to bring together the creativity and energy of Shoreditch and the incredible possibilities of the Olympic Park to help make East London one of the world’s great technology centres. I want to show you how we can get there.”
The Prime Minister’s announcement is indicative of the government’s commitment in developing the digital sector in East London, allocating £200million of equity finance for businesses with high growth potential and investing £200million in developing Technology and Innovation Centres. The governments review of UK Intellectual Property laws and introduction of Entrepreneur Visas drive to attract investment in ‘Tech City.’ Government plans already appear to be a success with Cisco pledging to invest over £310m in the project and major online players such as Google, Facebook and Intel already signed up to the scheme.
This will undoubtedly boost East London which already has one of the largest concentrations of small, fast- growing digital technology companies in Europe including:
- Last.fm – sold to CBS in 2007 for $280million
- Tweetdeck – award-winning social media browser
- Songkick – the largest global database of concerts in the world
- Dopplr – sold to Nokia for $22million
Tech City still has a number of barriers to overcome. The UK’s technology skills shortage has been an ongoing problem. Kristian Segerstrale, co-founder and chief executive of London based games firm Playfish describe a lack of experienced and specialised technologists in the UK ‘It’s a particular problem with technical roles, highly scalable consumer internet services that need a blend of commercial and technical knowledge. When we need people with hardcore, scalable service technology skills and a particular management expertise but it’s very hard to recruit for those in London. We have to import talent from Silicon Valley.’
The TGLP Skills Committee are focused on overcoming these barriers and work with the HEI sector, employers and the FE sector to identify opportunities to enhance skills in the local labour market in order to ensure there is a pool of highly skilled labour which can capitalise on the opportunities presented by the development of the digital gateway.