Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a new £50 million project to regenerate Old Street roundabout and turn it into “Europe’s largest indoor civic space” for start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Old Street roundabout in the heart of East London is often referred to as “Silicon Roundabout,” due to the large number of technology start-ups in the area (over 1,300), though the government prefers the label “Tech City”.
According to the government's Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO), the new civic building will include a 400-seat auditorium, classrooms, co-working spaces and workshops equipped with the latest 3D printing technology, for use by both the local start-ups and the wider community.
It will have the capacity to train 10,000 students in coding and enterprise through programmes such as Coder Camp, TeenTech and Computer Science for Fun, and will also run 500 peer-to-peer education sessions for advanced skills development per year.
In partnership with apprenticeship providers such as Renaisi and Hackney Community College, the centre will aim to help 1,000 young people into skilled employment per year.
“Two years ago I set out my commitment to help Tech City become one of the world’s great technology centres. Today we are seeing it continue to grow and go from strength to strength – and that is down to the talented, creative entrepreneurs who have set up there,” said Cameron.
“The UK is in a global race and I am determined that we as a government continue doing everything we can to equip the UK to compete and thrive in that race. As well as backing the businesses of today, we are creating an aspiration nation and also backing the innovative, high-growth businesses of the future.”
The announcement was accompanied by a host of corporate commitments to Tech City. Microsoft and Cisco (together with DC Thomson and UCL) are both opening innovation centres to support local technology development, and KPMG and Alert Me are also setting up offices in the area.
Meanwhile, IBM will bring its entrepreneur programme to Tech City, Barclays will offer placements to students from Ravensbourne technology college and Salesforce.com is supporting a programme of events to showcase Tech City start-ups.
Commenting on the news, Steve Garnett, Salesforce.com EMEA Chairman, said that it is vitally important that technology SMEs are supported and nurtured.
“Today’s announcement from the government emphasises the UK’s huge potential to work its way out of austerity by building fresh, innovative and creative businesses,” he said.
Skills Matter, Brunswick, Busuu, Career Builder, Cavendish Corporate Finance LLP, ECNlive, Lawbit, Research In Motion and The Trampery all made further commitments to the Tech City project, ranging from providing advice to start-ups to connecting them with investors.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that the time is right to “lay solid foundations in Tech City for London’s digital revolution,” adding that the list of new firms committing to the area is a testament to the confidence that leading technology entrepreneurs have in the capital.
“Our new centre will provide not only a vital resource to nurture upcoming technology and creative superstars from around the world, it will drive huge investment into the capital and help create thousands of jobs,” he said.
The government's decision to turn the spotlight on East London's technology cluster in 2010 has led to rapid expansion, with many of the world's technology giants such as Google, Amazon and Intel establishing a presence there over the last year.
The Coalition government has also introduced a number of policies to encourage entrepreneurs and investors to set up in East London, including early-stage tax breaks, lower corporation tax and changes to IPO regulations.
“Tech City has become a thriving hub of tech-based enterprise and creativity,” said Joanna Shields, incoming CEO of TCIO. “We have the opportunity to take this momentum and make Tech City the global leader in tech innovation and the location of choice for start-ups and growth businesses.”