I read with interest recently that Facebook's European boss Joanna Shields is planning to leave the social network to head up the Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) - the UK government's investment group for technology start-ups. The ultimate aim of Shields and TCIO is to create a Silicon Valley in East London, an area already dubbed the 'Silicon Roundabout'. Shields' move is a really interesting one and I'm hoping that she'll prove influential when it comes to putting British tech start-ups firmly on the map.
Tech and innovation is no doubt a field led by the US, with the giants of Google and Facebook emerging from Silicon Valley, and today this category is a source of growth in the West that manufacturing can no longer provide due to stiff competition in the East. To add insult to injury, many of the most successful US digital or technology companies are the ones currently being reported in the press as profiting from UK corporation tax loopholes.
But the question begs: can the UK create the next truly global tech start up?
We have faced criticism for being the industrial underdog in recent years. However innovative approaches to business have brought about much commercial success in the UK of late. When Rover was taken over by Tata, critics said that the UK couldn't compete with oversees automotive manufacturing. The company proved them wrong by focussing on niche brands - Jaguar and Land Rover - and being very successful. The same applies to micro-breweries like Camden Town Brewery and niche food outlets such as Itsu, who have found their place in the market and are doing incredibly well.
The UK has always been a hub of innovation, driven by the likes of James Dyson and Jonathan Ive. We have also been a leader in innovation and creativity in the advertising and marketing sector. But we have fallen behind in creating a truly global household-name company in the digital space. Financial doom and gloom is always in the media yet VCs have money to spend in the capital today. However it is being invested, alongside higher proportions of advertising budget, with companies from abroad.
There is no doubt we need to be more self-sufficient in Britain. Global digital leadership is probably just the ticket and the talent to create it exists in the UK. As Shields says herself: "this country has the potential to become a major force in digital innovation... With the right boost now, there is no reason why we can't make London the number one location for tech in the world."
I feel there are exciting times ahead.
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