What was previously the press centre in London's Olympic Park is being transformed into one of the biggest tech hubs in Europe.

BT Sport has its headquarters on the site (named 'Here East), Loughborough University has set up a London campus there, UCL is set to unveil 'UCL East' which will host its robotics department and there is a huge £120 million data centre run by Infinity. There's also plans for a 'cultural quarter' nearby, with a presence for the V&A, Sadler's Wells and the Smithsonian Institute.

© Here East

They are now set to be joined by a huge 68,000 square foot tech 'innovation centre'. Techworld took a tour of the site this week led by the centre's CEO Claire Cockerton (pictured below).

The centre, named 'Plexal', is set to launch in May 2017. It seems a slightly unrealistic timescale given the site is virtually bare currently, and it's a deadline that's moved a number of times previously (it was originally due to open in July 2015). So watch this space.

However the plans for it are ambitious.

"This is the most connected building in Europe, thanks to it being the Olympic press centre," Cockerton says. "We have three fibre optic cable banks here."

"The concept is of a mini city with lots of startups based here, and a makers' lab with 3D printing facilities, plus shops and tons of office spaces," she explains.

There will be offices that can accommodate companies from four to 30 people, plus some open co-working space. However, the real selling point, Cockerton claims, will be not the office space but the surrounding services. Startups based here will have easy access to corporate accelerators, and discounted PR, law and recruitment services, plus entrepreneurship courses, she says. Prices start at £200 per month per desk.

It looks fairly bare at the moment, but Cockerton says they have had a "huge influx of interest" and already have six companies working out of a pop-up space on the floor above, set up as a temporary area before they are moved down to the site when it launches.

The site is a walk away from Stratford and thus will benefit from being connected to Crossrail, a new train line set to launch in 2018, linking Shenfield to Reading via central London.

There is, of course, one elephant in the room: Brexit. It's hard to avoid the fact that London-based startups and tech companies face a very uncertain future, at least in the short term. Could this have an impact?

Cockerton is honest: "We are worried about Brexit. Access to the single market is crucial to being seen as the global fintech capital."

However, she remains relentlessly upbeat and enthusiastic. And the idea of a community where tech, startups, broadcasting, the arts and innovation intermingle is a compelling vision. If they pull it off successfully, it will undoubtedly be the most exciting tech development in London next year.

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