The government aims to turn London’s East End into the UK’s equivalent of Silicon Valley with a number of new initiatives to encourage high-tech investment.
During a speech he will make today, prime minister David Cameron will outline plans for new entrepreneurial visas, changes to intellectual property regulations and more intra-company transfers.
These measures will help transform districts such as Old Street, Shoreditch and the Olympic Park into the UK’s home of technical innovation, he will say.
"Silicon Valley is the leading place in the world for high-tech growth and innovation. But there’s no reason why it has to be so predominant," the prime minister will tell business leaders. "Our ambition is to bring together the creativity and energy of Shoreditch and the incredible possibilities of the Olympic Park to help make East London one of the world’s great technology centres."
The government’s entrepreneurial visa program will make it easier for individuals to start innovative businesses in the UK. "These entrepreneur visas will mean that if you have a great business idea, and you receive serious investment from a leading investor, you are welcome to set up your business in our country," Cameron will say.
Intellectual property laws will be reviewed to make "them fit for the Internet age". The prime minister will explain that the decision was encouraged by conversations with Google, who apparently said "they could never have started their company in Britain" due to stricter IP laws.
Intra-company transfers should could make it easier for company’s to import IT talent from outside of the European Union. The government plans to impose a cap on immigration from next year, but exempting intra-company moves would allow multinationals to move more skilled labour to the UK.
Today’s announcements are the latest in a high-tech charm offensive by the government, which is aiming to place the sector at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery.
Last week, the prime minister announced plans for £200 million of investment for Technology and Innovation Centres, which he said would promote sharing of knowledge between universities and businesses.
Google, Intel and Facebook are among those companies to commit to investing in the East London area. Search engine giant Google will create an Innovation Hub in the area, while social networking site Facebook has pledged to build a permanent home for its Developer Garage scheme, which connects developers and entrepreneurs. Intel says it will build a research laboratory.
The Old Street and Shoreditch areas of the capital have attracted the moniker ‘Silicon Roundabout’, as a number of high-tech start-ups operate in these districts. Examples of these firms include music streaming service Last.fm and social media aggregator Tweetdeck.
In February 2009, political journalist Fraser Nelson dubbed Cameron and his strategic advisors the "California Tories", saying that in devising their economic strategy for the UK they took their cue "from the West Coast of America: the land of Google, Stanford University and venture capital".