All over the world governments dream of creating centres of digital innovation to rival Silicon Valley. The British government is no exception. Over the last two years it has led a high profile drive to support ‘Silicon Roundabout’ – the high tech cluster that has emerged in Inner East London – and turn it into something bigger: Tech City.
But policy makers haven’t known as much about the cluster as they need to. Based on fresh qualitative and quantitative research, inclusing in-depth interviews with digital entrepreneurs in the cluster and beyond, A Tale of Tech City maps the development of ‘Silicon Roundabout’ from its emergence in the late 1990s, and provides the most detailed account yet of the firms and jobs that make up the cluster. Counting over 3,200 firms and over 48,000 jobs, the research shows that the cluster is larger than is generally appreciated.
Despite this, future growth is not guaranteed. A Tale of Tech City puts forward possible scenarios for how the cluster could develop and makes recommendations on skills, access to finance, workspace, connectivity, mentoring and business development to help ‘grow our own’ high-value digital firms of the future.
The report’s key finding is that the government’s Tech City strategy should focus on supporting the growth of digital economy SMEs and developing new entrepreneurs in the existing cluster, and makes suggestions as to how this can be achieved. The current government strategy to expand the network from Shoreditch out to the Olympic Park risks dispersing innovation such as to inhibit the growth of a vibrant tech community with international reach.