Cisco pledges $500m to East London Tech City

The US networking giant is focusing on SMEs with its investment of millions in technology, money and manpower, part of which will develop the East London Tech City rival to Silicon Valley
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Cisco has pledged to invest around $500m in the UK, part of which will go towards the East London Tech City scheme to develop a competitor to Silicon Valley in the British capital.

Prime minister David Cameron

Prime minister David Cameron has welcomed a $500m investment by Cisco in UK projects. Photo credit: BIS

A newly formed initiative called the British Innovation Gateway (BIG) will funnel a tranche of the "long-term" $500m (£313m) investment of money, technology and manpower into areas in east London, the networking company and prime minister David Cameron jointly announced on Monday.

"I welcome this major statement of support from Cisco," Cameron said in a statement. "East London [is] set to become a leading Tech City."

The announcement sees Cisco follow up on commitments made in November to add resources to the East London Tech City project. The scheme will see a range of international technology companies — including Google, Facebook, Vodafone and Intel — make investments in the area around the Olympic Park and Shoreditch, which is home to many tech start-ups.

In addition, some funding will go towards building networks to link innovation hubs across the UK and create a prize, part of Cisco's I-Prize innovation contest, to reward small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with creative business ideas. The winners will receive mentoring, training and access to in-house resources from Cisco.

"The direct expenditures associated with the BIG initiative will be spent on a mix of technology and ICT infrastructure services, human resources applied to SME mentoring and incubation, I-Prize funding and establishment and operation of physical facilities in east London," said Phil Smith, Cisco's chief executive for the UK and Ireland.

Five-year project

The British Innovation Gateway will be the start of a five-year project to foster the growth of high-tech small businesses, according to the Santa Clara-based networking specialist.

"Cisco anticipates that the rest of the investment goal it will make related to BIG will be in innovative UK [small and medium-sized enterprises] emerging as a result of BIG. This investment must remain unspecified for obvious reasons," Smith said.

As part of the initiative, Cisco will create two linked 'innovation centres' in Shoreditch and the Olympic Park. The centres will use networked collaboration technology to connect with other centres across the UK and the globe. In addition, Cisco plans to build networks to hook into other clusters in east London, such as the Digital Peninsula in Greenwich.

Elizabeth Varley, chief executive of Techhub, a hub for start-up companies in the east end of London, believes that the investment in the 'Silicon Roundabout' area around Old Street and Shoreditch is a savvy move for the US networking giant.

"I can see the value to big companies like Cisco in terms of tapping in," Varley said. "If you're not immersed in that culture and community, it can be difficult to establish something like it."

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