Cameron announces plan for 'East London Tech City'

A quartet of major technology companies and others will invest in east London as part of a push to make the area a technology hub of global importance, prime minister David Cameron has announced
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Several major IT companies have committed to developing a technology hub in east London, prime minister David Cameron announced on Thursday.

Intel, Google, Facebook and Cisco are all due to make investments in the UK's answer to Silicon Valley, Cameron said. The prime minister also announced plans for £200m of equity finance for businesses with high-growth potential and an additional £200m fund for new technology and innovation centres, one of which could be based in the Olympic Park. He also reiterated that the government would open up its procurement budgets to small and medium-sized firms.

"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," Cameron said, referring to the area as "East London Tech City".

Cameron also said that the government will review the UK's intellectual property laws to "see if we can make them fit for the internet age" by incorporating "fair-use" provisions. He spoke about the creation of a new 'Entrepreneur Visa' to make it easier for individuals with a business idea and financial backing to set up a company in the UK.

In addition, the prime minister announced the formation of a UK trade and investment global technology taskforce, which will have at least £15m at its disposal to recruit technology companies and workers to the UK and to help UK start-ups expand overseas.

Intel told ZDNet UK that it will extend its Winnersh-based fasterLAB and create a new east London centre for research into performance computing and energy efficiency. According to Cameron, Google will establish an 'Innovation Hub' where its researchers can mingle with external developers and academics. Facebook will create a dedicated area for its Developer Garage programme while Cisco will set up an innovation centre to focus on its smart and connected community programme.

British Telecom will also roll out superfast broadband in the Shoreditch and Old Street areas, and the Olympic Park Legacy Company will provide office space in the Olympic Park for companies that grow out of east London. Imperial Innovations, the venture-capital arm of Imperial College London, will work with the Olympic Park Legacy Company to ensure the office space is used effectively.

"In London alone we have a network of more than 2,000 developers who will greatly benefit from having access to the Tech City... we will promote the centre as a place of innovation and creative ideas for the UK's developers, marketers and entrepreneurs," said Joanna Shields, Facebook's vice president for Europe, in a statement.

Google said in a statement that "the UK already leads the world in e-commerce, and now has the clear opportunity to be a leader in technology overall". "It's great to see a renewed government focus on technology and we're very happy to support it with our plans for a new developer innovation hub in east London," the company said.

The US's Silicon Valley region has spurred other countries to develop their own technology hubs. On Monday, Microsoft agreed with Russia to invest further in Skolkovo, Russia's would-be Silicon Valley.

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