Cisco and the UK government announced yesterday that Cisco will invest $500m in East London, in a boost to Cameron’s previously announced plans to build a tech cluster from Shoreditch to the Olympic Park. The money will go to build two networked innovation centres and five annual competitions for SMEs.
Clusters are important for the startup ecosystem and I’m pleased to see Cisco’s involvement here, as it will add to the emerging critical mass in the Shoreditch area.
As I’ve said, I think this is a good thing. A greater density of engineers and entrepreneurs will make it easier to start and build companies, hiring will get easier, more knowledge will get shared, fewer mistakes will get made and we will have more successful companies – for me it is as simple as that. I understand the cynicism from some quarters about government announcements and the extent to which they might be talking up this initiative for PR purposes, but for me that doesn’t matter too much. The important thing is that government support is increasing and that it looks like there is real commitment to building a tech hub.
One thing I will say is that if we are building a tech hub in East London we should focus all our national resources there. As mentioned above, the greater the density of engineers and entrepreneurs the better, and that means we should focus on a single national hub, not multiple regional ones – in a country the size of the US they only have one major hub (Silicon Valley) and a couple of smaller ones (principally New York). This is unfortunate for areas outside London, particularly given that many of them are less well off, but I think we have to maximise our chances of success with this project and that makes London the only real choice, given the existing startup activity, proximity to capital, proximity to the City and media customers and good travel links.