East London Tech City
East London Tech City (also known as Tech City and Silicon Roundabout) is the term for a technology cluster of high-tech companies located in East London, England. Its main area lies broadly between St Luke's and Hackney Road, with an accelerator space for spinout companies at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
A cluster of web businesses initially developed around the Old Street Roundabout in 2008. The area had historically been relatively run down compared to the City of London, known as the 'City Fringe'. The 2008–09 recession further suppressed rents through the closure of numerous firms, making it affordable to technology start-ups, while redundancies from financial services companies, such as investment banks, released a local pool of experienced talent interested in entrepreneurship.
From 2010, as the cluster developed, both local and national government supported its growth, with the goal of creating a cluster comparable to Silicon Valley in the United States. Cisco, Facebook, Google, Intel, McKinsey & Company and Microsoft are among the companies that have invested in the area. City, University of London, London Metropolitan University, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London and University College London are all academic partners in projects based in the cluster.
Technology companies located in the area in 2008 included Dopplr, Last.fm, Consolidated Independent, Trampoline Systems, AMEE, Skimbit (now Skimlinks), Songkick, Poke London, Kizoom, Redmonk, MOO, LShift, Ket Lai, Solstice and Schulze & Webb. Other early companies to locate there were Tinker.it, flubit, TweetDeck, Berg, Fotango, weartical.com, Rummble, Squiz, Techlightenment, BrightLemon, Believe.in, Livemusic and WAYN. The name Silicon Roundabout was initially proposed as a tongue-in-cheek joke by Matt Biddulph.
Plans to help accelerate the growth of the cluster were announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech given in east London on 4 November 2010. A year later, Cameron announced that he was appointing entrepreneur Eric van der Kleij to lead the initiative. In 2010 there were 85 startup companies in the area. By 2011, approximately 200 firms were occupying the area, signifying a rapid increase in interest. Wired magazine updated this figure in 2012 and suggested some 5,000 tech companies were located in the wider area centred on the Old Street roundabout. Wired maintains a topic on the area.
On 28 September 2011 it was announced that Google had acquired a seven-storey building near Old Street roundabout. Google said that the building, in Bonhill Street, would host "a range of activities, such as speaker series, hackathons, training workshops and product demonstrations" in addition to providing workspace for new companies. The building, known as Campus London, opened in March 2012.
Notable technology companies active in the cluster include:
- Amazon – has opened its Digital Media Development Centre in the area
- Aurora Fashions – the company behind Coast, Oasis and Warehouse occupies one of the largest buildings around the Old Street roundabout (Exchange House) and with mobile sites and apps
- Avoiding Mass Extinctions Engine (AMEE)
- BT – has agreed to accelerate the roll-out of superfast broadband in the area
- Bosch - London Connectory incubator
- Cisco – has agreed to establish an Innovation Centre in the Olympic Park
- EE – has introduced 300Mbit/s 4G in the Tech City area
- Facebook – has agreed to create a base for their Developer Garage programme in the hub
- Google – has created an Innovation Hub in the area to develop next-generation applications and services (whilst retaining its UK headquarters also in central London) Google also hosts its Campus London Residency Programme in the area. The 2018 cohort hosted start-ups focussing on tech for good.
- Gojimo – the UK's leading revision app provider
- Intel – has established a new research lab in the area focused on performance computing and new energy efficiency technologies
- Microsoft - has created a developer community hub called the Microsoft Reactor in the area.
- Qualcomm – has agreed to provide intellectual property advice to start-up companies based in the area
- R/GA – is specialised in Digital Transformation with a ventures arm and start-up accelerator
- Simply Business
- Sports Interactive
- Stack Exchange
- Startup Weekend
- Tweet Deck
- Ve Interactive – an e-commerce solutions provider based in Clerkenwell
Educational institutions active in the cluster include:
- City, University of London (includes Cass Business School), which hosts the City Launch Lab a co-working space and accelerator programme for City Students and Graduates.
- Imperial Innovations (the technology-transfer company of Imperial College London) – has agreed to advise on the creation of an accelerator space for spinout companies at the Olympic Park
- Loughborough University and University College London – have agreed to work with the Olympic Legacy Company to establish a bridge between academia and enterprise in the Olympic Park
- London Metropolitan University – has their own student accelerator and business incubator "Accelerator London" in 35 Kingsland Road
- Tech City College - operated (2015-2019) in adjacent Islington until its closure due to falling enrolment
Financial and professional services providers
Financial and professional services providers active in the cluster include:
- Barclays – agreed to create a new facility to provide specialist banking services to technology companies based in the area, known as 'Rise'
- KPMG – opened a dedicated office in January 2013 providing accounting and tax advice to early-stage technology companies
- McKinsey & Company – has agreed to provide advice on the creation of the hub and help to new companies starting out in the area
- Silicon Valley Bank – has agreed to establish a UK-based bank to provide financing for technology and life science companies based in the area
- Capco – relocated their UK headquarters to Great Eastern Street in 2014 (along with BOLD ROCKET), and is currently providing office space for small FinTech startups
- Taylor Wessing – opened the cluster's first dedicated law firm office in October 2011
A number of not-for-profit organisations have created a sense of community in the area including Independent Shoreditch, a business alliance, and Digital Shoreditch, which organises monthly meet-ups plus an annual festival of the same name.
East London Radio launched in 2013 as an on-line talk community radio station run entirely by volunteers, with studios in several East London boroughs.
Public sector organisations
Public sector organisations active in the cluster included:
- City of London Corporation – assisted in the creation of the Innovation Warehouse
- Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) – a quango founded by then UK Government department UK Trade & Investment to encourage the growth and development of the Tech City cluster, since rolled out nationally as Tech Nation.
As the cluster expands, a number of developments have been/or are due to be built, such as by ASAP Member Cuckooz, who launched its latest design-led apartments in 2018, targeted towards the tech companies and offer apartments in a renovated art deco style cinema dating back to 1870, and features a new arthouse cinema on the ground floor. While, the Atlas Building on Old Street has full planning permission and is substantially already pre-sold on the market. and The Maker, which is situated on Nile Street close to City Road on the very edge of Tech City and designed by Avanti Architects, which is underdevelopment and will provide 175 contemporary, apartments within an elegant 28-storey tower and connected low-rise building.
The rapid growth of the cluster has met with some criticism. The Centre for London think tank said in 2012 that it felt the development had little focus and could be counter-productive. The think tank also raised concerns over a skills shortage, connectivity, lack of mentoring and rising costs. Also that year Tech City was called a "marketing gimmick" on the wrong side of London, away from Heathrow Airport, which is still over 30% more expensive than any city outside London. James Dyson criticised the coalition government in 2012 for spending money on the scheme to attract international companies who Dyson argued would drive up rents instead of helping start-up and hardware companies, who he felt had greater potential than software and internet companies.
London Underground Northern line (City branch) and National Rail Northern City Line which is operated by Great Northern provide services at Old Street. With the increase in passenger numbers using the station, in 2014 Transport for London announced that it was to offer pop-up retail space at Old Street station as part of a drive to increase its revenue.
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