Cor blimey! An East End Silicon Valley?

Office buildings in the real Silicon Valley. London hopes to have its own version soon.

The East End of London is perhaps more famous for long-running soap opera Eastenders than it is for tech innovation but according to news out today, it is about to be transformed into Britain’s answer to Silicon Valley.

What with the Olympics in 2012 and a proposed technology centre to rival Silicon Valley according to Prime Minister David Cameron, the East End might well be filled with tycoons with the vision and ambition to rival Ian Beale’s catering empire.

So will this new centre for tech innovation be a great opportunity for Britain’s business angels and tech entrepreneurs?

David Cameron wants Britain to punch above its weight in the Internet  tech arena and by all accounts this marks a major step in his vision to make Britain a world leader in the hi-tech business arena . These are lofty ambitions, the real Silicon Valley has been churning out high growth Internet companies for years with far more resources at their disposal.

Before we see the likes of Facebook and Google beating down the door to set up shop in the East End it is worth remembering that other mini Silicon Valleys have already been set up in Britain including ‘Silicon Fen’ and ‘Silicon Glen’ up in Scotland, fortunately Ken Livingston is no longer Mayor of London, otherwise we’d be calling this latest innovation park ‘Silicon Ken’.

Elsewhere, Russia and more recently Dubai have also set up their own versions of Silicon Valley as they scramble to encourage the innovation that will help them keep up with the Internet revolution .

Of course such tech innovation hubs require the right talent to make them successful and some of this may come from abroad – with tightening immigration rules this could be a problem. But Mr Cameron also has this covered with the introduction of a new entrepreneur visa that will help those with a promising business idea set up in the UK.

Along with this, the Prime Minister is also planning a review of intellectual property laws to bring the UK more into line with the US and help the country keep up with the “Internet Age”. On the face of it this can only be good news for those business angels and entrepreneurs looking to surf the wave of investment pouring into the Olympics. The UK’s Internet economy is also well placed to make the most of such hi-tech hubs with the sector said to be worth £100 billion a year to the UK economy.

There are some drawbacks. As we have seen in other countries, hosting a major world sporting event doesn’t necessarily translate into lasting prosperity. Take a look at the examples of Greece and South Africa. There is also a very different business culture in the US where entrepreneurs and investors are more willing to take the big risks.

There are also well-established groups of business angels, super angels and venture capitalists in the US experienced at transforming fast growing businesses into dominant world beaters. In Europe the climate is a little more risk averse and time will tell whether this new pet project will transform the fortunes of Britain’s promising tech start-ups and produce the same kind of conveyor belt of world beating Internet companies we see coming out of the real Silicon Valley.

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  • Whilst I welcome this initiative, your article also hints at which this news could have been even better. Scotland’s Silicon Glen already has a major IT centre (including amazon.com) and top graduates. It would be great to see similar initiatives in Scotland.

    Secondly as you point out the US investors seem happier taking bigger risks and investing earlier than the UK and when you look at the US track record this strategy has been a more successful one, no Googles, Yahoos, Facebooks, Ebay or Amazons headquartered in the UK for instance. So why is there no initiative to get US investors and investment companies over to the UK to refresh our investment community?

    Craig

  • Brett Tudor
    Hi Craig

    Good point, It would be more encouraging if this latest initiative was presented as another step towards Britain becoming a global player. There is after all plenty of innovation taking place outside London.

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