4 Nov 2010

East London to rival Silicon Valley, says Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron announces that he wants east London to become a high-tech centre to compete with California’s Silicon Valley.

Prime Minister David Cameron speaking on the telephone in 10 Downing street (Reuters)

Mr Cameron has told a meeting of entrepreneurs and investors that the East End of London would become one of the “world’s great technology centres”.

He added: “We’re not just going to back the big businesses of today, we’re going to back the big businesses of tomorrow.

“Don’t doubt our ambition. Right now, Silicon Valley is the leading place in the world for high-tech growth and innovation. But there’s no reason why it has to be so predominant.”

Meeting entrepreneurs
Mr Cameron and his officials in Downing Street have over the past few weeks been meeting e-business entrepreneurs in a bid to understand why so many successful dot.coms have their home in California and why so many skilled British entrepreneurs cross the channel to make their fortunes, writes Technology Correspondent Benjamin Cohen.

Despite the concerns of many businesses, the Government is planning to introduce a permanent cap on the number of non-EU migrants allowed to come to Britain to work.

But in a sign that ministers are taking these worries seriously, the Prime Minister said new visas would be introduced for entrepreneurs to encourage them to start up companies in Britain.

Entrepreneur visas

“These entrepreneur visas will mean that if you have a great business idea and you receive serious investment from a leading investor, you are welcome to set up your business in our country.”

The message to investors was “we want you; we’ll make it easy for you; we’ll put out the red carpet for you”.

Mr Cameron said Home Office research had shown that the current scheme for foreign entrepreneurs and other high-value migrants had shown that a third of people entering Britain under this system were in unskilled work.

Yesterday, the prime minister told MPs that employees transferred from a company’s office abroad to an office in this country would not be included in this cap.

In the year to June 2010, 26,480 people from outside the EU came to this country on these transfers.

The Government has said its aim is to reduce net migration to tens of thousands a year.

An interim cap in place at the moment allows 24,000 non-EU economic migrants to come here over 12 months.

Creating jobs

Mr Cameron’s announcement about the planned East London Tech City was also designed to raise hopes that the private sector will be able to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs as the public sector sheds an estimated 600,000 posts.

Mr Cameron said the response from international technology firms and venture capitalists to the Government’s plans for east London had been “overwhelming”.

Companies planning to invest include Google, Facebook, Cisco, Intel and British Telecom, with the Olympic Legacy Company providing office space in the Olympic Park.

To attract investment, Silicon Valley Bank is to become a fully-fledged UK bank to provide finance to high-tech firms, and the copyright laws will be reviewed.

Google’s founders have said they could not have started their company in the UK because of its system of copyright.