The UK scores pretty well on entrepreneurship, but really, really struggles on innovation. The problem is, Brits simply aren’t well-connected enough, writes Steve Mullins. And that’s not good enough if there’s to be home-grown Silicon Valley. Because, despite all the London Tech City hype, you need to remember that the country’s prime digital location actually doesn’t have the broadband capabilities to support start-ups.
The answer is to focus on people and connectivity, supporting bottom-up social networking initiatives across a multiplicity of local networks and platforms, and to invest in infrastructure while developing a UK-wide branding strategy for innovation clusters, according to the How to Make the Most of UK Innovation report from entrepreneurial types David Cleevely, Sherry Coutu, Hermann Hauser and Andy Richards.
“We need to view ourselves as others view us,” the report says. “Global inward investors see Cambridge, Oxford, and London as effectively a single location, and some think on even larger scales. We need to present the UK and its clusters in a more coherent and concentrated way.”
However, unlike their counterparts in Silicon Valley, Cambridge, Oxford, London and their neighbours exist in isolation. “We do not have the concentration of humming, continuous, multidirectional, and mutually-reinforcing corridors of innovation, spilling-over with people, ideas, investors and promise.”
So, what to do about this?
For one, the authors advocate the creation of a London King’s Cross megahub for science and tech, with excellent connectivity between the likes of Olympic Park (UCL), Canada Water (KCL), and Imperial West, as well as Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge and BT’s research centre near Ipswich.
And then there’s branding. “We have MedCityLondon.com, whilst Nottingham calls itself ‘MediCity’. Intellect changed its name to TechUK, and the adaptation of ‘TechCity’ into ‘TechCity UK’ (when no single city is denoted) is somewhat perplexing, the report says.
“We need a branding strategy that enables clusters to retain their own identity, be recognised as part of a larger grouping of equals (for example, the South East or the North West), and be seen as part of the UK. … Branding runs deep. If we can solve the branding issue, we can be more effective in backing networks and clusters that show potential and promise.”