London gunning for tech capital tag

London gunning for tech capital tag

IET Prez William Webb lists UK's strategies to make it happen

London gunning for tech capital tag

Backed by Tech City and Cambridge Science Park, London is transforming itself into the next tech capital of the world by incubating hi-tech companies with mind boggling valuations, said IET President Prof. William Webb. IET or the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is the largest multidisciplinary professional engineering institution in the world.

Prof. Webb told Deccan Herald during a recent visit that London-based companies are really making disruption backed by innovation. “Tech City and Cambridge Science Park have played a major role in revitalising the innovative spirit of London. This mirrors the effect of the Silicon Valley cluster  in the US,” he said.

Webb said that a study by management experts on clusters found that they will have one or two large anchor companies that pull people to come around, and then there will be typically a good university. “Silicon Valley has both these components and they transformed it into a technology powerhouse,” he said.

The UK government is actively encouraging Tech City and Cambridge Science Park with funding. “The government says, ‘We want to give this part of London a sense of innovation and, therefore, we are going to ensure that the right skills are there.’ It is actively encouraging companies like Google to invest,” he said.

East London Tech City (also known as Silicon Roundabout) is a technology cluster located in Central and East London. It broadly occupies the part of London’s East End between Old Street and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford, with its locus in the Shoreditch area.

Cambridge Science Park, a joint venture between Trinity College and Trinity Hall (both colleges under Cambridge University), is in existence since the 1970s. But the 2005 opening of the Cambridge Science Park Innovation Centre has added new vigour to the park.

“If you keep talking about it to people and bring them together and infuse this idea, eventually they will start believing in it and it pulls together all other kind of things like funding,” he said.

Culture frames disruption
The IET president said there is no rocket science involved in building clusters, though it requires commitment from senior politicians to bring in few big companies. “And I suspect the same is the story in India. Bengaluru has a lot of companies, so that should be possible,” he said.

When asked about why innovation coming from India is not making global disruption even after the existence of big companies and critical mass of manpower, he said globally countries bring in different cultures to innovation.

“If you live in the west coast of the US, then the mark of success is starting up your company. On the other hand, if you live in Germany, the mark of success is working for a large German company and being an apprentice for a large chunk of your life. So different countries have different cultures around what is seen as being successful,” he said.

Webb said that the UK has seen a push on innovation, with lots of government funding. “India could also create such an environment to encourage entrepreneurship here,” he said.

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