People, Not Technology are the Heart of London's Tech City

30/10/2012 17:38 GMT | Updated 30/12/2012 10:12 GMT

It's a rare thing to hear a resounding success story for UK Plc nowadays. Yet Tech City, the Government's anointed digital and media hub in East London, is just that. Over the weekend, one of the Prime Minister's closest advisers, Rohan Silva, was talking up the initiative and this, combined with the appointment of Facebook's Joanna Shields - as the new Chief Executive of the Tech City Investment Organisation - was music to my ears.

Establishing Tech City as a major hub for digital and media companies has been a central plank of this government's drive for growth - and with good reason. Undoubtedly, this sector of the economy has the potential for major expansion in coming years and a vital source of new, highly skilled jobs. Joanna Shields' appointment will go a long way to cementing the UK - and in particular London - as the world's best prospect for tech innovation, and is a powerful endorsement of the Government's strategy.

People like Shields don't move without good reason, and what usually attracts high fliers is a job with significant challenges but also unique potential. Tech City - regardless of what you think of it - has both in spades.

But if Tech City is to have greater longevity than a political soundbite, then there is much for government do - it is not enough simply to "get out of the way". Despite some tinkering around the edges with initiatives like the entrepreneurs visa, patent boxes and R & D tax credits, Shields will need serious commitment from the Government to take action, fast, on our arcane regulation and taxes. That's without even thinking about creaking infrastructure; it's no secret that - despite London 2012 - it urgently needs updating, as anyone trying to get a Wi-Fi signal in east London will confirm.

Yet the potential here is vast. Despite the cliché, Tech City really is unique as a tech hub. London is home to a unique business and entrepreneurial ecosystem; combining experts in advertising, architecture and design, technology and software, manufacturing, engineering and biotech and of course, the financial powerhouses of the City.

It is one of the world's great cosmopolitan cities, rich in arts and heritage and with an extraordinary level of cultural diversity, exemplified by the fact that there are more than 300 languages used in the city. It is a city which is a great place to live as well as work.

Our universities, too, are a major asset - the capital hosts two of the world's top ten research powerhouses in UCL and Imperial College London. Together with the proximity of other specialised institutions, this provides Tech City with experts in every conceivable area from science and technology, through to arts, humanities and culture.

Yet what is most important for coming decades is London's leadership position in healthcare and medical technology innovation. The city is one of the biggest superclusters of integrated life science and clinical expertise in the world, with thousands of biomedical researchers and clinicians delivering treatment millions of patients each year. It's an unparalled competitive advantage given the access to new research tools and data that such proximity provides. While the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley are targeting healthcare as the next big opportunity, they can only dream of the assets on Tech City's doorstep.

What investors will see - and what I suspect Joanna Shields saw, too - is that Tech City has all of these advantages, all whilst being part of one of the most vibrant, dynamic and exciting cities in the world. It's what has attracted entrepreneurs and innovators for generations - and with Shields at the helm of Tech City, this new chapter will ensure the capital will continue to pull them in for years to come.