In November 2010, the UK government announced that they wanted to make London’s Silicon Valley/ Tech- City in the East End, an important hub for technology companies. In January, Eric Schmidt, Chief Executive of Google visited Downing Street to discuss the creation of an innovation hub.
The Government believe that Google can help with economic growth throughout the nation and that technology could play an important role in helping the country’s economy to recover. There has been recent talk of Google expanding their presence further in London.
The UK Government said, “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 greatest technology centres”. The aim is to have Tech- City span from Shoreditch to the 2012 Olympic Games site.
In 2008, there were as little as 15 high-tech companies in London’s Tech-City. There are now approximately 200 companies occupying the area, making the ICT sector in the UK the largest in Europe, employing more than 1 million people and contributing more than £66.4 billion to the UK economy.
The Economist said, “Britain does not have a technology focussed venture-capital industry anything like as bounteous as that which serves Silicon Valley. What is needed above all, is simply more success stories. American investors are keen on hi-tech start-ups because they have seen many grow into world-beaters. Until East London produces its own Facebook or Apple, British investors will be nothing like as bullish”.
Will the UK’s technology sector always be dwarfed by the US’s? Arm is the british microchip company who designed the ‘brains’ behind Apple’s iPad. The Telegraph said that Arm is “A UK company we can be proud of”. The company recently launched a microprocessor design which it claims will lead to a new generation of ‘super smartphones’. Arm says that the new chip will allow Apple and other handset makers to design phones with ‘five times the brainpower’.
Is there hope or is it too late? America has had a head start and the companies are bigger than in the UK. One broker said, “British technology companies that become big and successful are eventually taken over by even bigger and richer overseas competitors. It’s a cycle that will be difficult, if not impossible, to break”.
Alternatively, Mike Townend, IP Group, said, “American investors have always been more supportive of technology companies than their British counterparts, although attitudes are slowly changing on this side of the Atlantic.”
Perhaps the success of Tech-City is about collaboration. After all, Google are expanding successfully in the UK and Facebook have recently agreed to create a permanent home in East London with the intention of bringing together and inspiring the most talented developers and entrepreneurs in the UK.
Surely the future should be about the sharing of ideas and expertise and watching success happen naturally as a result of global collaboration rather than resistance and competition.