In 2010 there were less than a hundred start-ups in the East London area now known by many as Tech City. Today there are over 1,300 tech companies, from promising start-ups to major internet giants like Google and Facebook, making it Europe's fastest-growing technology hub.
During my time in New York over the last two years it has been fascinating to see how much this city and London have in common. They are the twin global epicentres of finance, media and fashion. And tech companies on both sides of the Atlantic are disrupting these sectors, re-writing the rules and driving them to new levels of excellence.
In both cities, rapidly expanding tech clusters are succeeding in the sectors that dominate their economies. There are similar clusters of tech activity all over England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, buzzing hubs that have a lot in common with New York's exciting scene.
As the UK start-up scene continues to thrive, more and more US-based companies are jumping across the pond. Approximately a third of all companies that have moved to Tech City since March 2011 are from the US. And this trend goes both ways, as more UK start-ups are setting their sights on the US and the Big Apple for growth. This is no surprise, as both are powerful ecosystems in which innovation can flourish and, with so many economic and cultural similarities, both are natural destinations for overseas expansion.
Government is well-placed to create a favourable environment for entrepreneurship. Through the British Consulate in New York and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) - the British government's foreign commercial arm - we are looking to foster greater entrepreneurial collaboration between New York and the UK. To that end we recently opened applications for The GREAT Tech Awards, a fast-track expansion plan for New York-based companies looking to establish a presence in the UK and vice versa. The GREAT Tech Awards are part of our efforts to break down barriers for New York start-ups looking to gain a foothold in the UK, building on successful schemes such as entrepreneurs' visas and start-up loan programmes.
Five winning New York-based start-ups will be flown to London by Virgin Atlantic for a bespoke week-long business-development trip with accommodation covered by the Royal Bank of Scotland. A winner will be selected by a distinguished panel of judges from each of the following categories: hardware, education, lifestyle, finance and media. In addition, the awards' advisory board will select one British company succeeding in New York for its Advisors' Choice Award, based on excellence in leadership and the potential for further transatlantic growth.
The judging panel comprises some of the biggest names in start-ups, including: Ben Lerer, CEO and founder of Thrillist; David Karp, CEO and founder of Tumblr; John Borthwick, CEO of Betaworks; Margaret Dohnalek, global head of technology for PepsiCo; and Simon Bradley, vice president of marketing for Virgin Atlantic.
The free flow of ideas is essential to innovation. The UK is more motivated than ever to encourage US tech innovators to break out of traditional silos and create opportunities on both sides of the ocean. In doing this, the UK tech scene has become a recognised facilitator of new technology, economic prosperity and job creation.
Danny Lopez is the British Consul General in New York and Director General of UKTI (UK Trade & Investment) in the United States. For more information about The GREAT Tech Awards visit www.thegreattechawards.com.
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