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It's Time For Britain to Stop Doing Itself Down

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David Cameron used his conference speech last week to warn that we must "do or decline" and that we must "show determination and imagination" if we want Britain to be great in the future. It's a laudable pursuit, and one that must start with a pledge to stop doing ourselves down.

It seems to have become fashionable to sneer at the so-called Silicon Roundabout and the digital and technology firms growing there - they're no Silicon Valley we're told. On some measures, the critics would be right, but that says nothing for its huge potential.

Do we even want to replicate Silicon Valley? Would we not rather develop the things that London brings to the table? The fact that the city is a global financial hub which hosts the world's leading creative, advertising, fashion and design industries can't hurt.

That said, East London is growing quickly. Big players like Google, Intel and Cisco have set up in 'Tech City' in the last two years. And confidence is growing - the latest findings from the Investec Entrepreneur Confidence Index show that 81 per cent of entrepreneurs are expecting an increase in profits, 63 per cent expect their UK workforce to grow and 41 per cent think it's likely that they'll launch new products or companies in the year to come.

Another promising sign is the bond that has formed between Imperial College and Tech City through schemes such as the Digital City Exchange, a major research programme. This is more important than you might realise - Silicon Valley was founded on links to Stanford. This doesn't necessarily mean London will give birth to the next Facebook or Google, but it's a clear sign that it could have a huge impact in health care, sustainability or transport thanks to the university's expertise.

A number of British tech companies are even starting to explore floatation - something largely unheard of in this country. This year three companies, including Sheffield-based WANdisco, floated on AIM. These are early days, but the government is showing encouraging signs of providing a remedy, pledging just last month to relax the requirements for listing on the London Stock Exchange.

And while we may still lag behind Silicon Valley on some dimensions, Hermann Hauser, one of the country's best-known technology investors, thinks we're ahead of continental Europe and have made phenomenal progress.

Indeed, Startup Genome's research ranks London as the third most successful digital innovation "ecosystem" in the world (behind Silicon Valley and New York) - a calculation, which includes the total market size, type, revenue streams, product development and thought leadership.

It even credits London's entrepreneurs with being 21 per cent more likely than their Silicon Valley counterparts to tackle existing markets with better products.

It's stuff to be optimistic about - and deserves more support than a simple economic measure. Indeed, as David Cameron said: "It's not just about growth and GDP. It's what's always made our hearts beat faster - aspiration; people rising from the bottom to the top". It's time to stop doing ourselves down - and believe that Silicon Britain can soar.