The buzz surrounding the UK technology sector is getting louder. New policies and initiatives are springing up almost every week, each with their own take on how to position the UK as a haven for innovative, fast growing technology firms. Just recently Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy and arguably Britain’s most successful technology entrepreneur, launched his own technology fund investing in companies in the hopes of finding the next Autonomy. The government announced plans to relax free float rules for technology companies wishing to list in London thereby making it more of an attractive destination for international firms and as a means of keeping hold of our home-grown tech talent. And the Sunday Times reminded us just how strong the sector has become publishing its yearly Tech Track 100 recognising those UK technology companies that have the growth and ambition to be the global names of the future.
However, perhaps the biggest vote of confidence in this sector has come from the combination of public and private money that has supported a series of new technology hubs across the UK. Most well-known of these is the East London Tech City (aka the Silicon Roundabout) between Old Street and the Olympic Park in Stratford which includes Last.FM, Tweetdeck and BGF’s very own portfolio companies Unruly Media (10th on the Sunday Times Tech Track) and SkyDox.
Plans to help accelerate the growth of the hub were announced by David Cameron in a speech back in November 2010 modelling Tech City on Silicon Valley in the United States. Tech hubs are undoubtedly a fantastic environment for cultivating talent and enterprise and this is evident in the fact that similar hubs are springing up across the UK. They provide the perfect mix of talent, inspiration and focus for budding tech entrepreneurs.
But could we, and should we, be doing more? Or do these external influences – whether public or private – ultimately end up diluting the early entrepreneurial flavour of the hubs. Are we in danger of stifling growth with good intentions? A recent report from the BBC cited other adverse repercussions; for example, rents have been rising dramatically in Tech City.
Only time will tell whether the UK can ever create a rival to Silicon Valley but at least we are trying and if it does ultimately come to nothing, then we can blame the weather.