Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust, but it only makes up 27.7%. There is a whole range of other elements that are necessary. Silicon's greatest contribution to mankind has been in the manufacturing of electronic devices and integrated circuits. Like many other elements, silicon is rarely found in its pure state. It takes a long and heated process of purification to get the type of silicon that brings our great machines to life.
A similar process is happening in the UK, where it will take much more than just silicon and technology to bring to life the type of environment that the London tech scene needs to become a global force.
With the announcement of the UK government's Tech City Initiative in November of 2010, much praise was given by entrepreneurs and technology leaders. PM David Cameron announced his interest for London's East End to become a, "world-leading technology city to rival Silicon Valley."
Some of the Tech City Initiatives include:
- Using Olympic Park space, at the conclusion of the games, as an 'accelerator space' providing office space for companies growing beyond East London
- Creating an Entreprenuer Visa, giving people with good ideas and investment the opportunity to set up in the UK
- A possible revision of the Intellectual property framework that updates laws for the internet and social media age and encourages innovation, similar to the U.S
- UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) will provide millions of pounds to technology companies, helping them expand into new markets.
- Attempting to become the prime country in the developed world for 'early state and venture capital investment'.
While government involvement is very important, it will be the personal initiatives of individuals and companies that can make all the difference. State finance alone will not achieve a vibrant tech city. Silicon Valley in California is driven by much more than just dollars and technology. It's the creativity, ingenuity, and culture of its workforce that creates the perfect environment.
However, let's not forget that Silicon Valley has more than 60 years of history. They're an experienced bunch! The first steps down new roads were taken by a few individuals that dared to be different, and within a few years, their pioneering vision led to homegrown businesses contained within their garages and small offices that would later become multi-billionaire companies with thousands of employees. This took many decades.
Similarily, London's Tech City will not sprout overnight. Many of London's small tech and startup companies of today are the garages and small offices of Silicon Valley's yesterday. The necessary elements have been identified but it will take time and the effort of visionaries and trend-leading companies to find and purify the final materials needed to create London's Tech City. Which includes a reinvigorated culture.
There have been a few critics who snicker at the term 'Silicon Roundabout' saying we shouldn't use a name that describes a small area of tech companies, ones which cannot compare to Silicon Valley. What do they fear? That we're dwarfed by Silicon Valley? Well, we are, whether or not we give the place a name. However, this shouldn't be a concern as we move forward.
Tech City's Initiative is to rival places like Silicon Valley, not copy them. The UK tech scene has the possibility to redefine and recreate the tech city of the 21st Century, not just create another valley, and certainly not just by using silicon.