Tech City tubthumped

East London startup hub receives royal treatment

The U.K. government’s Tech City initiative, which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are promoting on their visit to California, is a pet project of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

It’s an ambitious attempt to turn a swathe of East London into the U.K.’s answer to Silicon Valley, a breeding ground for Web entrepreneurs.

Cameron wants to build upon the flourishing community of start-ups that has sprung up around Shoreditch’s Old Street roundabout, a drab traffic circle on the cheaper eastern fringe of Central London, and to connect that with the high-tech facilities being constructed for the 2012 Olympics five miles away in the Stratford district.

The government has already talked the likes of Google, Intel, Facebook, Cisco, BT and Vodafone, along with several universities, into investing in the zone. It is reviewing the U.K.’s IP regime to make life easier for start-ups, and offering “entrepreneur visas” to attract new ventures from anywhere in the world.

“Something is stirring in East London,” Cameron said when he launched the plan in November. “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. Our ambition is to bring together the creativity and energy of Shoreditch and the incredible possibilities of the Olympic Park to help make East London one of the world’s great technology centres.”

Breaking barriers

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