Tech City - by Royal Appointment


Prince Andrew on the Royal Family's use of modern technology

Later today Britain's newest city gets a Royal visit. It is a place that is still known to many as Silicon Roundabout but two years ago the government dubbed the stretch of London inhabited by small technology firms around the Old Street roundabout Tech City.

Ask most people - even Londoners - what that means and I suspect you will get quizzical looks. But a Royal visit should help to put the tech cluster on the map, and perhaps make the government's ambitions to turn the area into Europe's rival to Silicon Valley look slightly less fanciful.

One Royal has already spent plenty of time visiting the area and getting involved in promoting it. Prince Andrew was supposed to accompany the Queen on today's visit, but now that her engagements have been cancelled for the rest of the week, he will be going alone.

So yesterday I went to Buckingham Palace to interview the Duke of York about the hi-tech cluster - and about his family's use of technology.

His staff had warned me that he was more "techie" than I might have expected, and that proved to be the case. Off camera, we chatted about the merits of various mobile operating systems, and what worked best in a BYOD - Bring Your Own Device - organisation which is apparently what the Palace is becoming.

Then in our interview Prince Andrew told me that the Royal family acted as "the early adoption gang", trying out new technology for the Buckingham Place IT department: "We are very fortunate, we hear about, we go and visit, we see new technology and we see new opportunities and we bring them back and go OK let's see how we can apply this. "

He said the family were enthusiastic users of Apple's iPads and all had mobile phones, though there was more caution about social networks. But he revealed that the family did use Yammer - the private social network for organisations which is among the firms he will visit today. "I've used that for seminars and forums I've held here so that people can carry on the conversation afterwards."

As for Tech City itself, the Prince stressed the importance of linking it back into the local community - something critics say is missing: "I've been working very closely with Tech City and Hackney. There is 35% unemployment in 18 to 35 year-olds in that part of London. What I want to do is to try to encourage apprentices to be taken on from the local area." There was, he said a tendency to bring in people with a university education from outside the area. "Not everybody needs a degree to work in this particular sector."

The Prince seems genuinely enthusiastic about helping to boost East London as a centre of hi-tech endeavour. He talked of businesses on the scale of Google or Amazon emerging from Tech City.

So far, however, there is more evidence of American giants like Google, Amazon and Microsoft - owners of Yammer - opening a few small offices in East London rather than home-grown businesses emerging to take them on. Tech City has the royal seal of approval and a healthy marketing budget - now it needs to show it can generate jobs and world-beating businesses.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 34.


    The times you speak of are long gone, in those days the title of "engineer" demanded respect and actually mean't something. These days it's seen as yet another working class job that nobody wants to do. It's no surprise we lack people with technical ability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    There's a lot of rubbish talked about the Tech roundabout. I live close to it and in reality it is a bunch of rich kids trying to be cool in Hoxton and buying lots of gadgets to prove it.

    Embarrassingly out of touch article written here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    It's interesting to note that the no: crunching machines designed built & operated at Bletchley Park during WW2 to crack the German codes were broken up afterwards under the instructions of the govt.
    Up until this time as with jet engines & genetic modification of apple varieties this country had an enormous lead over the rest of the world in these technologies. It was all given away.Brilliant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I was only recently asked did I wanted to run some courses on: How to outsource your IT to India. The request was on the basis of: "Well if you can't beat them, you may as well join them". I decined.

    There seems to be some distancing from reality with the article as everyone I speak to is having the same experience that I had!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    2.Perivale Elvis
    I think there should be more stories about the Royal Family in the technology section of the BBC website. We need more insight from these experts.
    A tad unfair. Prince Andrew did give a plug for Apple. He could work as BBC Technology correspondent

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.


    Is everybody in power totally brainless and clueless ?

    You can't just pick someone off the street to work in IT. Education is required and the Government has just destroyed UK Education for the next 50 years !!!

    Students will come out £50k in DEBT for christsakes !! With mediocre degrees.

    Most can't even count when they arrive on campus!

    The UK's Richest have taken all the money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Regarding IT graduates and outsourcing:

    Technology changes rapidly and radically, and there's too much out there to cover in University no matter how well the course is structured. Mobile, server, language design, large-scale systems architecture, databases and so on.

    To recent graduates I say: don't stop learning!

    We can't usually beat outsourced work on price so we have to beat it on quality!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    If they are trying to raise enthusiasm from within, then they need to do it on a larger scale and to include employment for non graduates outside of London too. . . . . A lot can no longer afford to go to Uni, and we are called England, not just London

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.


    Why bring them in?

    I'm involved in a project right now, project managing a development team in the Phillipines. A team of 6 people, each with more skills than 20 UK IT graduates (and they want to work). Paying for those skill on UK soil would render a project like this unviable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Tech City may be a good advert for the UK but there is, yet again, a lack of joined up thinking by the British.

    News reports show that we have a lack of skills in this area (internet security etc.), our education system is failing to produce people with suitable skills and so we will end up bringing in people, with the necessary skills, from India etc. Thus continuing our immigration problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Tech City is all very well and good but its not enough. We need Tech City in every town in the country. Our ambitions are crap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Short of outsourcing everything but admin to Asia, how can any technology business surivive in London?

    It'd be interesting to see if anything more than bog standard office admin was actually happening in "Tech City".

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Nice to see our royals promoting American big business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Very clever, getting Apple and iPad into a piece about a roundabout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Tech City should be in Manchester, the home of technology in this country. Also we have lower cost housing, fewer traffic jams and infinitely better countryside than the south east.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Is Buckingham Place (IT department) a mis-print, or is it what the 'firm' call their des-res in central London?

    I'm not sure about putting all our high tech eggs in one basket. I would favour a distributed approach to technology development. All our universities could forge links with industry to fund innovation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    With all the hacking going on, I sincerely hope that the Windsors are being extremely cautious on any and all systems.
    I find it curious that Yammer has been specifically-mentioned, as though it may be seeking a little push up the IT scale,
    As Rory writes: "now it needs to show it (i.e. Silicon Roundabout) can generate jobs & world-beating businesses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    My 30+ man software team was dismantled 3 years ago; and the work outsourced to India. Subsequently the 2 other software teams have also be broken up and their work has also been outsourced to India. Of the 100+ software engineers, only a handful still work in IT.

    Royal visit! What will that change?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Tech city needs some royal money

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Time for Hollandification of the royals.


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