Investors are ploughing money into London’s tech community, but does it need more than venture capitalists to grow?
25 years ago, politicians in London realised that while travelling from the north to the south of the city was rapidly becoming easier, there were severe bottlenecks from east to west. The name Crossrail might be significantly older than the building works currently going on around the capital but the recognition that infrastructure needs to improve and evolve has been part and parcel of London’s growth. The UK capital, thanks to its sheer size and economic dominance has always had a magnetic pull causing its population to expand and putting increasing pressure on its road and rail infrastructure. Yet continual growth is a strategy the politicians know needs matching continual investment.
Yet road and rail aren’t the only infrastructure important to a major city. As London’s digital economy grows, so too does its reliance on a digital infrastructure.
The capital’s tech community has received record amounts of investment in 2015; almost £550m has been invested in just the first quarter of the year. However if it is to continue to grow and create jobs, more needs to be spent on the “roads and rail” of the digital economy.
It is patently valuable to London itself. Nearly a third of the capital’s new jobs come from the tech sector. Over a three year period from 2010 there was a 92% increase in the number of digital start-ups just in central London. Those new businesses and new jobs impact far more industries and economies that simply the tech bubble; from bars to restaurants, the service and spending economy, a successful sector with jobs creation helps to keep London’s economy buoyant.
Three years ago, the then Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, said he would ensure Britain had “the fastest European broadband by 2015”. While individual cities in the UK do well in terms of broadband coverage (Liverpool and Bournemouth in particular, which are also tech hotspots) London does poorly compared with its European neighbours. In terms of broadband download speeds, the UK is ranked 26th, behind Romania, France, Germany and Latvia.
Why is this important? It enables other tech centres in other European capitals to steal a march on London. The tech world evolves rapidly and if firms can get a better service from other European capitals they might be more likely to take their business there, in the same way they might move if it’s too difficult to drive the roads of a city, or if train carriages are continually busy or late running.
Clarendon has had serviced apartments in London for over a quarter of a century (almost as long as CrossRail) so has seen the capital grow, expand and develop. Infrastructure isn’t simply of question of transport. To ensure it remains to punch above its weight in terms of tech economy, London’s digital infrastructure needs to be improved as well. From fibre optic to broadband these matters are just as important as accommodation and transport to cope with a booming population.