London’s vision for Tech City

Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise.

Kit Malthouse is London’s Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise. In his first column, he outlines the Greater London Assembly’s vision for technology in the capital.

London has a rich and long history of world-leading innovation.

In the nineteenth century, our dynamic city shaped the industrial age through its energy, enterprise and ideas. In the 21st century, London has firmly embraced the digital age, providing a perfect location for the world’s top technological entrepreneurs and businesses.

London leads in Europe

The ever-expanding tech community springing up around Old Street and Silicon Roundabout is at the heart of a new boom, which has seen more than 24,000 IT and tech firms set up shop here, supporting some 48,000 jobs. To give this some context, Paris, our nearest European rival, lags behind with just 15,500.

We have successfully created a hi-tech ecosystem which has proved attractive to a diverse range of global digital leaders – Facebook, Amazon, Google, Yammer, Cisco to name just a few – and a wide range of ambitious, fast-growing start-ups.

This hasn’t happened by accident. London is a world leading destination for business for a long list of reasons, not least due to our favourable time zone and language as well as being home to a young, talented and dynamic workforce.

As Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for business and enterprise, my task is to ensure we are not complacent about this growth. The continued success of Tech City and London’s digital economy as a whole is critical to delivering the skills, jobs and new investment London needs to support its growing population.

The business case for redevelopment around Old St Roundabout

If London is to maintain its lead as digital capital of Europe and as a global centre of excellence, we must foster the creativity which drives world-class invention and entrepreneurship. Our tech geniuses need a base, a headquarters, where they can be part of a creative community which drives progress through the exchange of knowledge.

This is precisely why London needs the groundbreaking Tech City Institute – a hub which will replicate for the digital economy the vital role that institutions such as the Royal Society played in sparking the industrial revolution. The Mayor and Government are committed to making this idea become a reality, pledging £50 million in funding to creating the new Institute near Silicon Roundabout. The centre will not only be a physical gateway to Tech City, but a buzzing and energetic home which will get the neurons firing and put London’s brightest brains at the cutting edge of global innovation.

It’s crucial that the creation of the Tech City Institute is seamless, coordinated and coherent. Under the direction of the Mayor, this funding from the Tech City Investment Organisation will help London and Britain – the birthplace of the internet – lead the world towards the next technological renaissance. My team is working on a feasability study which will be published shortly, outlining our ambitions for the institute.

The number of tech companies in the Old Street and Shoreditch area has increased threefold over the past year and the Mayor is committed to encouraging this growth. Working with London & Partners, the Mayor’s promotional body, we have already helped 130 new tech firms set up in London, creating more than 1,300 jobs.

Growth economies are a key part of this drive to attract business to London and at the close of 2012, the Mayor announced the arrival of two leading Indian tech firms whilst on a trade mission to this boom economy.

I understand the challenges of running a small business

London is a city built on the success of its small and medium-sized enterprises. I have owned a small business – I am well aware of the difficulties which can hinder growth and stifle entrepreneurship.

The Mayor will continue to lobby the Government in order to create a fertile environment of investment and support which will allow SMEs to flourish; and as the motor of the UK’s economy, London’s prosperity is not only good for the capital, but for the nation as a whole.

Young people must be involved

Continued growth in the digital sector must also work to the benefit of communities in which these enterprises are based. The ambitious regeneration of East London, underpinned by investment flowing from the Olympic Games, presents a massive opportunity.

These vibrant new businesses have a responsibility to engage with those around them and a perfect way to do this is by hiring apprentices. By taking on enthusiastic young workers, companies can discover and nurture undiscovered talent, while at the same time fostering a loyal workforce.

Together, I am confident that we can cement London’s future as the best place in the world for the brightest and best minds from around the globe to gather and drive human technology forward throughout the 21st century.