During the 2008–2009 recession, a shabby area of northeast London became home to a small cluster of tech start-ups, who were drawn to the rundown neighbourhood by the allure of low rents. Centred around the Old Street Roundabout, just outside the limits of the City of London, the derelict area ironically was not even served by fibre optic cable at the time. Yet, this inauspicious neighbourhood and its pioneering start-ups gave rise to what has now become London’s technology hub – home to some 5,000 tech companies – and naturally dubbed the “Silicon Roundabout”.
Over the past decade, London has become arguably the digital technology capital of Europe. With its combination of a world-city address, influx of venture capital investment and government support, the city has become rich fertile ground for entrepreneurial tech start-ups – as well as the giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon that have been attracted to London by its talent, creativity and technology infrastructure.
According to London & Partners, the promotional company for London, the city’s digital technology sector is growing faster than both the London and the UK economy as a whole, and will continue to do so for the next decade. The city has also attracted more international tech investment projects in the last ten years than Paris, Dublin, Madrid, Amsterdam and Munich combined.¹
Recognizing the importance of the Silicon Roundabout movement and this fast-growing sector of London’s economy, UK Prime Minister David Cameron along with London Mayor Boris Johnson launched plans to support the growth of the cluster with the creation of Tech City UK in 2010. The publicly funded organization was created to promote and accelerate digital technology businesses, first in East London (now called Tech City) and subsequently in other centres across the UK.
Driving the concept of East London as an innovation hub, Tech City UK has helped turn the area’s nascent digital technology scene into one of the most important engines of the country’s economic growth. The UK government has also promoted London’s competitiveness in the tech sector with a number of other moves, including introducing an entrepreneur’s visa as well as tax breaks for early-stage investors.
¹London & Partners. London cements position as tech capital of Europe at launch of London Technology Week. Web. June 15, 2015. http://www.londonandpartners.com/pdf/media-centre/press-releases/2015/20150615london-cements-position-as-tech-capital-of-europe-at-launch-of-london-technology-week