A UK scheme to support small, start-up technology companies has received fresh industry backing from companies including Vodafone, Barclays and one of Japan’s most wealthy technology developers.
The scheme, dubbed the Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO), provides funding for small companies, is designed to attract large, wealthy investors to London and comes at an important time: with Mayor Boris Johnson adamant that London should become a true 21st Century smart-city. TCIO’s support of tech firms and small developers fits-in with this rhetoric. A spokesperson for TCIO stated: “Our role is to provide help and support where we can to help ensure long-term, sustainable growth.”
Several large clients have become involved in the scheme, offering assistance (either financial or otherwise) to entrepreneurs and start-up efforts in the UK. Among others, Vodafone and Barclays recently signed-on. The mobile provider is to offer office-space, marketing and business advice for a small share in the companies involved. Barclays is backing the so-called ‘Central Working Club’; a building in London’s ‘Tech City’ (Old Street) which offers meeting rooms, storage and networking opportunities for a small monthly fee. Rent is also substantially cheaper in the Old Street area than many other parts of London, a fact that has already attracted many small businesses to the area.
The scheme has also attracted some criticism. Local residents are concerned about rent and house-prices in the area rising, and describe themselves as “frustrated” at a perceived lack of consideration for their perspective. However, according to TCIO, the change was underway well before they arrived: “The cluster of tech, digital and creative companies was growing organically in east London and will continue to do so, regardless of government intervention.”
There are actually several benefits to the local community. Under the plans, several hundred new jobs will be created (both local and national), and several derelict buildings in the Old Street area are being renovated. The idea that the East London district might be transformed into a shining centre of industry has inspired many people, particularly politicians, as the local council have voiced their approval of the issue. Whether or not it is destined to become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the United Kingdom remains to be seen. For now, however, development is well underway on what looks like a promising future for London’s East End.