Whither Cameron’s east London ‘tech city’?

The Prime Minister’s recent proposal for an “east London tech city” (River Lea shapes up as Silicon Valley, Financial Times, November 4) connecting the Olympic Park and Shoreditch is really an information-technology-and-a-bit-of-greentech city. But ‘technology’ is much broader that this. Unfortunately most of it lacks the media cachet and public buy-in of Twitter, Facebook and Google.

And their significance is over-estimated. In reality these businesses – and only the latter really deserves that moniker – represent the tangible benefits of decades of hard research work, in corporations, universities, government labs and beyond which created the integrated circuits and networks, operating systems and software, drives and displays atop which they sit. Without more of this hard R&D work we won’t have a future legacy on which we can build such tangible innovations. But promotion of such fundamental research is absent from this warmed over plan from the Dotcom era.

Of course information and communication technology (ICT) will be a foundation of future economic activity and innovation. Rather than wooing the sexy ‘young insurgent companies’ the Prime Minster spoke about at the CBI conference [video], the Coalition would do better to promote investigation of the ways ICT can enable innovation in some un-sexy sectors, and how it might facilitate the creation of new products – and greater productivity – in the heavy, slow old industries of which Cameron seems so embarrassed.


One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Nico Macdonald,

    In City A.M. Stian Westlake of Nesta (‘London is no Silicon Valley – here’s why that may be a good thing‘, October 20, 2014) argues that:

    What has been achieved in London in the past decade is critical mass… The real challenge for the UK’s tech sector is not whether London will be the next Silicon Valley, but something much more important… they change the way we live our lives and make society more prosperous

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