All of the UK’s major cities need to become ‘global leaders’ and digital hubs, not just London, says Tech City UK chairman Joanna Shields OBE.
The Government launched the Tech City initiative in 2010 to accelerate the growth of innovative businesses with roots in East London. But Shields says the aim was also to ‘spread the economic potential of the digital sector’ across the UK, and hopes that other cities will follow London’s suit.
"We’re at a definitive moment," she wrote on The Telegraph’s website. "We can realise our ambitions and become the world’s leading digital capital but we must act fast.
"First, all of our major cities need to become global leaders in their own right. Every city has unique capabilities and can become a platform for attracting global talent and investment.
"We’ve been looking at our cities through the wrong lens by comparing them to London. We need to stop doing that. We need to focus on the global opportunities for our businesses all across the country. We have created a new network to align the nation’s digital hubs, the UK Cluster Alliance, and this will support and promote local digital hubs in this pursuit."
Over the past three years, Shields says that London created 83,000 new technology and digital industry jobs, while the number of tech and digital companies has almost doubled from 50,000 to 88,000.
She said the UK has become a ‘world leader’ in e-commerce, Fintech, Big Data, the Internet of Things, Digital Media and Open Government, and that our strengths in these areas are drawn from across the UK, but added that we can do more.
"In the new economy, people, passion and digital platforms are the raw materials," she added. "No longer constrained by geography, the right idea at the right time can be turned into a billion-pound business. In Silicon Valley, no-one talks about one zip code over another. The valley is a mind-set and a movement that fuels a nation.
"For Britain to succeed we need to ensure the continued growth and acceleration of the digital and tech expertise that exists all across the UK.
"If we do that, we can go from London being the digital capital of Europe to the UK being the world’s digital capital and the best place to start and grow a business."
Reaction to Shields’ views has been generally warm online, however digital ad expert and Telemetry CEO Anthony Rushton was not impressed.
"Joanna Shields lives in cloud cuckoo land," he said. "Mrs Shields had never started, owned or grown a business from scratch, she has merely strapped herself into flavour of the month businesses via friends and ex colleagues.
"London will always be a hub of talent, no matter what economic fluctuations and developments lie ahead.
"British tech needs international patent expedition, international patent protection aid, enhanced and clear entrepreneur relief with no catches, research and development aid, heavy tax incentives and moreover, encouragement on the world stage.
"As a community we need to be positioned as the Aston Martin of tech, the Rolls Royce of the Internet. Not simply following the North American model of pump and run ad heavy revenue streams."