BBC BLOGS - dot.Rory
« Previous | Main | Next »

Silicon dreams?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:48 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

Here's the plan - let's get some of the biggest names in technology to invest in east London so that the area can become a rival to Silicon Valley. So will San Francisco, Palo Alto and Mountain View be shaking in their boots when they hear the prime ministerial vision outlined this morning to a gathering of hi-tech hopefuls?

Sign displaying


Probably not - which is not to say that the idea won't be welcomed by the small technology firms currently clustered in an area around London's Old Street, known by some as Silicon Roundabout. The arrival of Californian giants like Facebook, Google, Intel and Cisco, which have all promised David Cameron either investment or advice for his east London tech hub, can only serve to add to the buzz.

Right now, east London has nothing more than a shoal of hopeful minnows, so a few giant fish will at least give the area more of a hi-tech identity. The government says that we are not bad at starting firms, but not so good at growing them into world-beating giants. The problem is that the likes of the music streaming service, a Silicon Roundabout success story, get to a certain size and then sell up, often to an American giant.

The government hopes that the presence of the likes of Facebook, coupled with the collaboration of prestigious London universities like Imperial College, will help replicate the kind of environment that has made Silicon Valley such an engine of American growth.

What about any concrete measures to make it happen? There is some money - £200m in equity finance, though that is cash that has already been announced.

There is the "new" entrepreneur's visa, designed to lure individuals with bright business ideas to Britain - though this is just a modification of an existing scheme which the government says just hasn't been delivering enough entrepreneurs to these shores.

And there's a commitment to re-examine intellectual property laws for the internet age. Of course, that was done a few years back under the previous government's Gowers Review - but again, the coalition seems to think that wasn't fit for purpose.

What many entrepreneurs will say is vital for this dream to be realised is a change of culture to one where it is natural for young people with bright ideas to abandon their studies and start a business - as Mark Zuckerberg did to start Facebook, or Larry Page and Sergey Brin to make Google a world-beater.

From what I see of Britain's start-up scene, we are getting there, but it takes time. After all Silicon Valley did not take off for many decades after Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded their company in 1939.

And is east London really the prime site for the UK's tech champion? Some would say that Cambridge, already home to several billion-dollar technology companies, has a better claim, or the Thames Valley, where a host of major firms employing thousands of people are clustered along the M4.

Still, the start-up crowd, sipping cappuccinos in Shoreditch cafes, has just been given a wake-up call from the very highest levels of government. The test will be whether they can now go on to create the Googles, Facebooks and Ciscos of tomorrow.


  • Comment number 1.

    Why does it all have to be in London?

    It makes no sense to "centralise" everything at one extreme end of the country.

    Why not highlight the disparity in investment between the South and the North? Is it because the BBC is mostly based in the London?

  • Comment number 2.

    Cameron is just reinforcing what everyone in Scotland always thought.

    All UK Govts rule on behalf of London and the City and to hell with everyone else.

  • Comment number 3.

    So you destroy jobs in the North East, and try to create new ones in East London. I suppose its a predictable nail in the coffin of the claim for "rebalancing the economy" and an admission that politicians simply cannot think beyond Zone 3. What is even sadder is that Britain's most successful IT company isn't in London. Nor even Cambridge, or the M4 Corridor. Its in Newcastle. In the North East.

    This is a policy that ignores economic reality, ignores the economic impact of what else the government is doing, and panders to a small number of "cool companies" that will, indeed, sell out to the US at the earliest exit opportunity. It seeks to rely not on innovation - which could be home grown - but inward investment (as in the M4 corridor, where the IT companies in the main sell and service products created elsewhere) which most definitely is not.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think there is an issue here regarding MediaCity. My understanding of the overarching vision there is for the BBC to be one of a number of large digital/tech/media employers taking advantage of the North West universities' takent pool and of course MediaCity is already at an advanced stage of completion through private backing.
    This by comparison is small scale and as you point is reliant on old public funds, but it is in London so gets the halo effect and cannot help but be a distraction for investors.
    It would be a lot better if the Government decided that there should be one strategic hub for this kind of development, not spread it across locations which have different appeal to different kinds of organisation. It needs to be either fully free market (which doesn't seem to have produced a winner yet) or a genuine strategic commitment to creating a single world class environment(which this isn't) but which MediaCity (and other locations such as Cambridge etc)could be.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think this is exactly what is needed, and it is a start for what could be rolled out in different places around the country.

    UK technology is world-class, no doubt at all. Where we've failed is to make really world-class companies out of this technology. The government has realised that what made silicon valley successful was a cluster effect - large companies, small companies, academia all working alongside one another, with venture capitalists looking for great opportunities to back.

    The UK technology scene has been hampered by a lack of vision, and I think the involvement of these larger international companies is part of what is needed. Its not a north/south thing, its a question of where the critical mass is. Inward investment may be what is required, but as long as some of the companies remain in the UK and act as role models to the younger entrepreneurs, and show what can be achieved, then the whole country benefits.

  • Comment number 6.

    The UK technology scene has been hampered by a lack of vision...

    Wrong..... It's been hampered by the lack of investment so it's ironic that this proposed development is just down the road from the glorious City of London, second largest financial centre on the planet and as about as much use to UK industry as the proverbial mammaries on a bull.

    But then the companies Cameron is talking about are all foreign so the City will no doubt sigh in relief they're not being asked to invest.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Its not a north/south thing, its a question of where the critical mass is"

    The critical mass is always in London because it sucks up the talent from elsewhere in the UK. People are forced to move through lack of opportunity in the North.

  • Comment number 8.

    I actually run an internet firm, started up in Shoreditch. We need to be clear about what "technology" means here. In Silicon Valley (and Shoreditch) it means the kind of stuff Google does - internet, mobile phones etc. It's the kind of stuff Rory writes about. But of course that's a tiny fraction of the broad, full meaning of the word technology. Now, nobody is talking about making Shoreditch a centre for material composites of the kind they use in advanced aircraft and cars. The government's just done that in Bristol, because that's where Airbus is. There's a stem cell centre in Newcastle, etc etc. The reason for focusing on this Google-type technology in Shoreditch is because that's where people are already doing this. It's a case of the government building on existing stregths. This will lead to more of this kind of investment happening in the South and East because that's where our top universities are. But if you want to challenge Silicon Valley, it has to be the way to go. And BTW if you walk 100 yards up the road from our office, you will find council estates as grim as any in the country.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hullo Rory,

    You are more likely to find the crowd in a pub on paul street and around the area drinking themselves into the realisation of how hard it is to raise VC money in the UK.

    I also take objection to the cameron bandwagon rolling in the US big guys as opposed to simply supporting the existing, yes we've been here for several years, community. How, I hear you as? with real cash, here are just a few:

    1. Employers National Insurance - How about you give a break to start ups that already operate, not just the ones starting.
    2. A fund that we can tap into to support payment terms of 90 days being introduced by established companies who we are trying to do business with.
    3. A kick up the back side to your government backed VC's to start taking risks with their (our) money. The ones I've met seem more interested in the interest payments than supporting the community

    Rather than speak to the google founders you ask the local community of startups what they need!

    This copyright issue is like completely off the richter scale of an excuse to why we don't have a silicon valley. To have a Silicon Valley outside of Silicon Valley you need Silicon Valley VC's who have a riskier cultural focus.


  • Comment number 10.

    Silicon Roundabout is more convenient for me but what about Silicon Glen?

    The beauty of this industry is that it can locate anywhere with good networking (Part of the Govts plan). The only reason they set on California is because of the Sun and the Surf.

    This is an opportunity that may be missed to regenrate other parts of the UK. East Londono already has the Olympics.

  • Comment number 11.

    #2. Wee-Scamp wrote:

    "Cameron is just reinforcing what everyone in Scotland always thought.

    All UK Govts rule on behalf of London and the City and to hell with everyone else."

    It's not just Scotland that thinks that, it's all of the UK that's outside the grand citadel of London.

  • Comment number 12.

    "And BTW if you walk 100 yards up the road from our office, you will find council estates as grim as any in the country."

    I'm not saying there isn't a need for jobs in London. I'm saying there is a disparity beween capital investment between London and the rest of the country which seems to be based on circular arguments.

  • Comment number 13.

    #8. WilliamCB wrote:

    "This will lead to more of this kind of investment happening in the South and East because that's where our top universities are."

    I'm sorry but are you serious? The UK has excellent universities spread around the entire nation. The reason there is more investment in London (lets not pretend that investment covers the entire south or east of England) is because the government is short sighted and cares for nothing outside of London - happy to let all other areas survive on public sector handouts which are heavily subsided by London taxes.

    There are numerous places of the UK that have the potential to become thriving technology centres but aren't given any kind of investment at all.

  • Comment number 14.

    Just what the UK needs. More skilled jobs in London.

    This government has already showed that it cares very little for anywhere outside the M25. -Not hugely unlike the last one, or the one before that, or the one before that...

    Surely better places for this would be Newcastle or Glasgow or anywhere else other than London!

  • Comment number 15.

    We should remember that it was the taxpayer from England, Scotland, Wales and N Ireland that paid for the Olympic Park so any benefit from that investment should be spread across the UK. If the Govt and GLC isn't prepared to do that then what other return on our investment will they be prepared to offer us?

  • Comment number 16.

    We already have a much bigger IT presence in Reading, Berks with Oracle and Microsoft on one campus. Guildford has a pretty large IT presence, as does Hemel - why would anyone want to put an office in an expensive location with unreliable road and rail networks?

  • Comment number 17.

    I see Mr Cameron is using the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy i.e. firing bullets and drawing a bullseye where they hit. In this case, noting that startups are moving to the east end of London then declaring that he wants startups to move to the east end. If there is success then Cameron can claim it.

  • Comment number 18.

    It strikes me that the whole purpose of this is to find a use for the Olympic Park post-games and neatly (in Cameron's eyes) link with the existing media cluster around Old Street. He should save the rhetoric and realise what a tech cluster actually involves (see and deal with the issues holding back start-ups.

  • Comment number 19.

    Lets face facts, You want to lure entrepreneur's to the UK, fine fair enough, lower the business taxes and you may get them starting up here, otherwise there's not a chance in hell.

  • Comment number 20.

    @16 "why would anyone want to put an office in an expensive location with unreliable road and rail networks?"

    Transport infrastructure spending is 3 times higher per capita in London than in Humberside. There are 37 bridges over the Thames and none are toll bridges. There is one bridge over the Humber and, you guessed it, it costs £2.70 for a car for each crossing and is set to rise further.

  • Comment number 21.

    Indeed, Why London?

    In fact, given that is Internet based, why anywhere at all in particular?

    The days when people had to work in tight complexes in single office blocks, to achieve anything, are fast fading.

    The cost of maintaining a desktop in a London office compared to the cost of providing 10Mbps connection to an employees HOUSE, anywhere in the UK, are very similar.

    And that employee, can work 8 hours a day, uninterrupted by irrelevant meetings, and need not be paid for 2 expensive hours plus of commuting time, or London wages to maintain a hovel in the old Kent road etc.

    Security? More laptops are left on trains than secure VPN's penetrated,. If the data is on a server in a dark room in London, That's as far as the London presence needs to extend.

    Hire a suite once a month to all meet face to face, and do the meetings in motorway cafes.

    It works.

  • Comment number 22.

    The comments about the London/everywhere else are certainly passionate! As someone who really doesn't care where it sits, I think the location choice should depend on the following:

    1. There must be lots of young people (agest it may be but no one can refute that all the biggest tech companies were started by teenagers)
    2. There needs to be a strong creative envoironment

    Based on this East London actually would do well as a selection. I agree that Cambridge would be a good alternative but London's creative industry in general means the environment is already there.

  • Comment number 23.

    Great idea more business and job opportunities for London while the rest of the UK slips deeper into decay. When all these big tech companies setup in East London as Cameron hopes where are the workers going to live?

    Why doesn't the government rename United Kingdom and just call it London so everyone gets a fair slice of the investments and jobs.

  • Comment number 24.

    Very good Mr Cameron!!....maybe even put some further investment into Silicon Glen or further Hi-Tec investment in the NE England...oops my mistake...there virtually all gone

  • Comment number 25.


    There are 4 British universities in the Global top 10 rankings, all 4 are in the SE.

    1st Cambridge
    4th UCL
    5th Joint: Oxford and Imperial College

  • Comment number 26.

    East London is perhaps the most stupid place to do this. Things are already too centralised in London, and what use to a startup are the prohibitive London real estate and living costs for their staff?

    Whilst it would ideally be in a more central location to the UK- either in West/South Yorkshire or the Midlands, it certainly makes sense to have it in Cambridge- an easy commute too/from London still, home of perhaps the worlds greatest University and still not too difficult a journey for most of the country.

    It's interesting that the Gower's review has been deemed not fit for purpose because it ironically supported many of the things Google wanted. The problem is, the Labour government at the time basically went against all the ideas in the review that would've improved things for technology companies. The Gowers review was pretty good, had it actually been followed rather than ignored. Perhaps the government should consider opening it back up, and greatly reducing copyright expiration limits as it recommended, rather than increasing them as Labour did?

    At minimum the government needs to follow the recommendations of the Gowers review, but ideally they need to go much further and deal with the problem of IP in a digital world in general so that it's more suited to consumers and modern tech companies than it is the dying music and movie industries. My concern is, these dying industries still seem to have a lot of sway with government, my concern is, if the digital economy act is anything to go by, any changes sold as improving things for the technology sector will actually make things far far worse, as the digital economy act has.

    It's good that the government now want to spread our economy more towards technology, but we should keep in mind Labour said this as well. It's how they act that matters, and Labour acted against the interests of the UK's technology sector and made things infinitely more difficult for them from the data retention/anti terrorism laws, to broken and unworkable laws on digital crime, to horrendously bad changes to IP, slander, and libel laws making things ever harder and more expensive for the technology world to operate and expand.

  • Comment number 27.

    @25 Cameron,

    I think you'll find that Cambridge is in the East of England and Oxford the cotswolds/midlands.

    I just think that for this type of company you can't look beyond Cambridge for the fact it has a British founded company, that hasn't sold up and is a global giant: ARM, it designs nearly all microchips that go into mobile phones, plus much more.

    We should be promoting this massive succes story and building this kind of area around a company like that.

  • Comment number 28.

    This is great news. i am hoping that a talent like myself with an MS and a recent MBA and with experience in Multi National firm in Canada(where the Queen is still the head) can come and work over...?

    Many a thing has been stalled and i need to resuscitate them.. and moving to London will be the key first step...

  • Comment number 29.

    @ 25

    Indeed. Though I would suggest that whilst Oxford and Cambridge perhaps are located in the SE geographically, they certainly aren't included in terms of economic investment.

    I also never suggested that there weren't top universities in the SE, I said that there were top universities all over the country (13 of which in the top 100 global universities that are located outside of the SE from that ranking you posted).

    Nevertheless, my point is that the investment in London (and none anywhere) is nothing to do with the talent available locally due to London or SE universities, as there is plenty of talent available all across the country - which sadly all ends up getting drawn to London because there are no opportunities elsewhere due to lack of investment.

    My final point is perhaps less relevant but I'll throw it in anyway. Is that the university rankings are perhaps not that usefull in judging the graduates worth at the end of the degree. eg. Oxbridge may be top of the rankings list, but many of the graduates still come out with degrees that are not particuarly beneficial in terms of high tech development (degrees in Classics etc.) Less traditional, more relevant degrees from lower ranking universities are much more useful that a graduate that can speak Latin. Therefore, whilst nice in prestige terms the 'top ranking' universities aren't necessarily any more worthy of gaining investment for the local area.

  • Comment number 30.

    I thought we already had a UK Silicon valley, namely the Thames Valley, or the M4 corridor if you like? This area has all the tech giants you can think of in the UK, not just the three mentioned by the PM. I know that because I live and work here.

    There are tech business parks everywhere sprawling along the M4 corridor, some lying half empty. I use half empty instead of half full because there's a clear downward trend.

    So what is the logic behind creating another Silicon Valley? Empty buildings cannot employ people, it's viable businesses that do. Or is there a plan to relocate existing businesses from the M4 corridor to the East-end of London??

    It's all hot air from a desperate PM trying to conjure up positive news in the face of a double dip recession.

  • Comment number 31.

    #21 - I've often wondered the same thing. There are so many benefits to having the workforce working from home. The lack of commuting also has environmental benefits, since there would be less car fumes being pumped out, as well as being better for mental well-being, as commuting can be soul-destroying and energy-slapping. There would also be fewer sick days, as people would be less likely to bother pulling a sickie when going to work involved getting out of bed and going to your computer room. Lower overheads from air-conditioning, heating and lighting.

    People would probably highlight the absence of regular face-to-face contact with colleagues making group efforts more difficult, but in my experience there is much to be said for conversing via email or instant messaging, as they provide a concrete history of discussions - I've often found working with colleagues working from home more straight-forward and to-the-point than with colleagues in the same room, and I can just look at the logs to remind myself what was agreed. I've found using IMs to converse with colleagues more than a few yards away to be increasingly prevalent in the workplace anyway.

    There are just so many benefits to home working, for both employers and employees that I don't understand why the Government isn't already encouraging IT companies in particular to make much more use of it. and this isn't just because I want a London job without having to move to London!

  • Comment number 32.

    OK, seems a little naieve to say such a dumb thing to the technology sector in the UK.

    We all know the expertise is already in the UK, eg Bristol has the largest silicon cluster second to Silicon Valley. (yes larger that cambidge).

    Why don't we have the scale of the US technology sector?

    Its very simple. Investment in technology. Its pitifuly miniscule in the UK.

    Given the knowldge that technology grows economies, and the Uk has very large investment banks, partly owned by the taxpayer. Just what is it that seperates investment from this community?

    Just read this article again. Spectacular naievity in government policy toward technology.

    How can you think that asking a few large US companies to have low rent buildings for a bit in London is going to create this turnaround?

    Its just insulting.

  • Comment number 33.

    Rory Cellan-Jones.

    "Here's the plan - let's get some of the biggest names in technology to invest in east London so that the area can become a rival to Silicon Valley."

    sounded good until I realised who's behind it. fwiw, since Mr Cameron and friends champion the idea it's just as likely to turn into a 'silly cone'. (which we'll have to wear collectively)

  • Comment number 34.

    I am British and I work in Silicon Valley. I am following this debate with interest and, I must admit, some mirth.

    Silicon Valley is about little firms starting from nothing and making it big. It didn't start out with large firms (Google, Facebook or whoever) coming in for cheap labour and engineers who speak English well.

    Silicon Valley is not the result of a government initiative. You need venture capitalists who understand the business and the risks involved. They need to be clustered so they can talk to each other and people looking for money can move between them quickly. Does the East End have that?

    Silicon Valley is awash with immigrants. More than half the company I work in is, like me, foreign born although, unlike me, they mostly did their degrees in the US. The same Prime Minister who wants to setup this "Silicon Valley" in East London is the same one who wants to limit the number of foreign engineers entering the UK to work and wants to limit foreign born people who get their degrees from a UK university from working in the UK.

    Finally, even if you were to magically fix the venture capital situation and the government did a U-turn on its immigration policy, you still need to fix the salary situation. Why are there so many British engineers working abroad? Because the salaries that companies are prepared to pay in the UK are too low (especially when you consider the ridiculously high cost of living). I earn twice what I could earn in the UK. If you can't keep your engineers in the country, then how are you going to attract the best from overseas? Why go to work in the UK when you can go to the real Silicon Valley and earn twice as much?

    This initiative will be a flash-in-the-pan. In a year it will all be forgotten. The UK needs to fix many things before it can compete in the technology arena; it doesn't need yet another "Silicon" initiative.

  • Comment number 35.

    Well yes 27* but ARM makes KNOWLEDGE not THINGS not even SERVICES. It consists of a tightly knit by IT) relatively small group of very clever chip design engineers, and a gang of patent lawyers and technical sales staff round the world. A £500M business with less than 2000 employees (the website doesn't tell me where they are based but certainly not all in the UK)it's a good example of the company as weightless network. But do we want a weightless economy? And why would it hang out in Newham or even in the UK?

  • Comment number 36.

    Politicians wouldn't know creativity if it leaped up and bit them. There are already thousands upon thousands of creative and entrepreneurial people in the UK, all struggling to make a living because successive governments have ignored their needs. The same successive governments who want to invite foreign creative entrepreneurs to invest here! It just doesn't make sense... why ignore your home-grown talent, and invite foreigners in to replace them?

    And as for creating a culture where "young people abandon their studies and start a business"... Ahhh... I see now... so that's why university fees have just gone up to £9k a year!

  • Comment number 37.

    @34 Malcom,
    I completely agree, and you have given a really good insight into SIlicon Valley.

    I'm a chartered engineer, but am in the lucky position to have moved into the one industry which pays Engineers properly in this country (Energy).

    It's not just salaries though that cause engineers to defect away and for us to struggle to attract the best foreign engineers here. It's also the general public’s attitude towards Engineers due to every handyman, plumber and electrician calling themselves one.

    On two recent trips abroad it was extremely refreshing to not have to explain what an engineer was and people perk up when you tell them you are one (South Africa and the US).

    The talented scientists and engineers are the ones who are going to grow a sustainable economy; the economists are the support network for the growth not the meat and bones (which is how it seems to work correctly in SIlicon Valley)

    @35 cping
    Yes in financial and employee terms ARM are middle of the road, but in global influence they are massive, and why not have the economy based on talented designers. Exporting real knowledge (which has value) that can't be manufactured cheaper in China is a real safe guard to the future economy.

  • Comment number 38.

    I have worked in Shoreditch for 5.5 years and am founder of one of Old Street's Silicon Roundabout companies (hotel price comparison site We are in the area because we were lucky enough to find business incubation (cheap office space and business support) in the London Metropolitan Accelerator program in Kingsland Road.

    If Accelerator wasn't here we would have been in A.N.Other office block taking business support from overpaid freelance consultants (paid for by the Government) who claim to be business masterminds. This is sadly the fate of so many small businesses and of so much wasted taxpayer money.

    If the Government really want to create a tech hub they should forget about getting a few big companies into a certain area. Create more incubators with each one in a specialised field with specialised support teams. Create community inside those incubators to foster inter-company activity. Enforce strict success criteria with incubated businesses, kicking out the failing ones to allow others a chance to thrive.

    Incubators in London are a good thing because of the talent pool available but I would advocate incubators in every major city across the UK. London is already stretched on it's infrastructure and rent is expensive. Re-focus spending outside the capital... for the money being spent on cross-rail, a new city could be built 30 miles out of London. Incubator-ville perhaps!

  • Comment number 39.

    Solve the problem of our economy being dependent on one small area of London by making it dependant on two small areas of London. Genius! also giving it a silly name like 'Silicon Roundabout' was this an ambitous Chris Morris Brass eye style setup? Get the prime inister of the UK to say "silicon roundabout".

  • Comment number 40.

    There is a good infrastructure here in scotland which would create a good silicon valley, good Transport links ie rail and new extensions to that being done on a regular bases good airports and roads good links to the M6 and the M1
    So come up here and enjoy the lush country side and keep out of the concretye jungle of the city

  • Comment number 41.

    DaveRN #40.

    "There is a good infrastructure here in scotland which would create a good silicon valley.."

    isn't that Silicon Glen?

  • Comment number 42.

    Why not consider Cornwall?

    We are undergoing a super-fast broadband rollout which will make us one of the best connected areas in the World

    we have a thriving business community, great communications, a fabulous environment and more of a Californian way of life than the South East

  • Comment number 43.

    The "why does it have to be London" does get the the problem with economic activity in this country. These are private businesses founded by people living in the South East. Why don't all you whingers in the North , Scotland , Northern Ireland etc get up off your backsides and do it for yourselves.

  • Comment number 44.

    @43 Mathna

    In principle I agree, but I feel it's a little bit more complex than that and all a bit of a vicious circle.

    When I graduated (from Sheffield Uni) I couldn't find a high tech job. The best I could find was Data Entry (with a Comp Sci. degree!). Which meant that I ended up here in the South. I think the problem is that the skilled get drawn south because that's where the jobs are, and the jobs are there because that's where the people are.

    Also, although Manchester etc have made inroads companies like saying they're in London (or fly into London) rather than other centres.

    I wish I could live further North rather than this expensive area, but until more companies can break free of the London gravity well, or embrace home working it'll not happen.

  • Comment number 45.

    I notice a lot of Scots complaining about the location in London. Just to remind you that the Alba Innovation Centre in Livingstone was created many years ago as a result of the success of Silicon Fen in Cambridge (Cambridge - still the most successful technology cluster in the UK). The silly billies chose not to link the centre with one university but to place it half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    If you have the energy to moan do not stand on the sidelines and heckle but get down on the field of play and use the resource that you have on your doorstep.

  • Comment number 46.

    UK just does not have the Venture Capitalists to make any UK company into the likes of Google, Facebook etc. I filed a patent and was contacted by American companies, but nothing from any UK Venture Capitalists.

  • Comment number 47.

    "The problem is that the likes of the music streaming service, a Silicon Roundabout success story, get to a certain size and then sell up, often to an American giant."

    Some have already in a different ways raised the question here. When will the politicians finally have an answer as to why the above mentioned is happening?

    Maybe new companies struggle so much to stay afloat due to taxation it's seems reasonable to sell out when the conditions are right and no incentives are in place. Pure simple economics. When the companies are sold offices are closed in London and moved to Beijing.

    For what reason is it cheaper for companies to open offices and businesses in India or China? Why can't the politicians answer that simple question? Is it only cheap labour? Or is it the incentives in those countries that are just working? When will something be done about it?

    Those initiatives or plans (whatever we call them) are pure fantasy, because the root cause of the problem still remains. Taxation and lack of integrity in the Government which claims things will get easier for small businesses, but nothing has been done so far.

    It is predicted China will soon become the world's financial centre, it will no longer be London, so I guess these initiatives are supposed to find a solution before it's too late, that's why everything must go into London, so the huge massive now overcrowded city survives on taxes that are dwindling due to lack of new investments. Add to that massive bills paid to quangos in the EU and you see the picture.

    I am predicting the fall of yet another empire - London.

  • Comment number 48.

    The US is the most innovative country, and most of the innovation comes from four megapolises: huge urban areas with huge world-class universities and all the necessary funding, resources, facilities and services for entrepreneurship. In addition, the US has an entrepreneurial culture, where people are prepared to have a go and failure is regarded as part of the learning experience rather than a disaster. This has not been brought about by government, and no government action in the UK could lead to a similar outcome.

    There are things that governments everywhere can do to foster innovation. The most important is to reduce the cost of start-ups and increase the scope for making and retaining wealth. That means light-handed regulation, non-penal taxation and a genuine belief in free enterprise and markets, which have driven the vast growth in world incomes since the industrial revolution. Governments need to recognise the benefits of aggregation: big cities are big because that size creates advantages, it increase the variety of opportunities for employment and exchange, and the serendipitous flow of information. Governments tend to support penny-packets of industry in many regions rather than recognising that aggregation is both natural and necessary. My earliest memory in this field is of an era when the UK had two viable shipyards and four non-viable ones. Rather than give work to the viable ones, the government gave work and subsidies to the four moribund yards. Result: all six went broke, when we could have had two long-lived yards. I have seen similar approaches time and time again; it never works to go against the natural economic flow.

    Governments need to get out the way. Bureaucrats are inherently risk-averse and non-innovative, and have no skin in the game when it comes to start-ups. The first thing I ask a bureaucrat who wants government to support a wonderful opportunity which the commercial world has apparently failed to identify (although they live and die by their skill in this field) is: "Have you mortgaged your house to invest in this wonderful opportunity?" Of course, the answer is always "No."

  • Comment number 49.

    Here is an even better idea. Move it somewhere more affordable because it's insanity starting up where no one can afford to live any longer. Not to mention the problems with power and data connectivity due to over saturation!

    There are so many viable places, especially where traditional industry has collapsed, that could do with the redevelopment income, not to mention the jobs.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.