Atlantic Cities

East London’s Tech City Triggers a High-Tech Stampede

Several years ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron noticed the stirrings of a high-tech culture in East London and set about turning up the temperature with a new public‒private initiative called Tech City.

Since Tech City’s launch, the initiative has set off a high-tech stampede resulting in East London’s transformation into the biggest engineering hub outside of the United States. In Silicon Roundabout, Tech City’s core, the number of tech companies has soared from 15 in 2008 to more than 200 in 2011. And between November 2010 and November 2011, the number of high-tech businesses in the wider Tech City grew from around 200 to more than 600.
 
Cameron’s government also has created incentives to attract high-tech companies, such as special entrepreneur visas for foreign nationals. England is also in the process of reviewing its restrictive copyright laws, with the objective of easing them to allow internet companies more flexibility to create new products and services. Another key attraction in Tech City is the high-speed IT cloud services provided to Tech City businesses by Shoreditch Network
 
Tech City has become a start-up incubator. The region currently hosts promising new companies such as GoCARDLESS, a platform that makes it easier for merchants to take payments online via direct debit; SHUTL, a courier service that promises to make deliveries of online purchases within 90 minutes; and SecretEscapes, an members-only travel website that offers discounts of up to 70 percent on luxury hotels.
 
In addition, Tech City also has been successful in luring well-known companies such as Google and Facebook. Google has started Campus, an innovation hub for developing new applications, and Facebook recently established a Developer Garage program in Tech City. This past May, Intel established its Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cites in Tech City. And in June, the Silicon Valley Bank opened up a branch in Tech City to offer commercial banking services to startups and tech investors. 
 
In addition to attracting established companies, Tech City’s buzz is inspiring big-name executives to defect to London. Facebook’s vice president for Europe, Middle East, and Africa Johanna Shields, recently left the social network to take over as CEO of the Tech City Investment Organization (TCIO): a public sector organization that arranges for foreign investment and provides support to East London’s start-up firms.
 
The resounding success of Tech City is already inspiring other cities throughout Europe to power up. Earlier this year, Berlin launched Log In Berlin, and Russia has embarked upon an ambitious plan to build an entirely new city and research center, Skolkovo, outside the capital, Moscow.
 
 
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