November 5th, 2010
03:05 PM GMT
London, England (CNN) - British Prime Minister David Cameron has spelled out an ambitious plan to support fledging tech companies in order to create a tech cluster called The East London Tech City. He was speaking before a very enthusiastic crowd of young entrepreneurs and older and wiser venture capitalists and bankers.
It seemed to me that the government is serious about making changes to the law and investing money in this venture. But even the PM freely admitted that Britain can't create a Silicon Valley at the moment.
From copyright laws to patent protection to the lack of risk taking in the culture, the country isn't a place where brilliant minds can take ideas to market, fail and then take another idea to market and fail again and then really take off.
As one young entrepreneur said to me, anyone who succeeds here is considered lucky or just privileged or in the end, is resented.
The changes outlined are encouraging. The PM wants to change the visa laws to allows those with an idea and funding to get one with little hasssle. The government will also look to change the data protection and patent laws to conform to the internet age. And, most importantly, the goverment wants to streamline the process for up starts to get funding and has pledged to allow smaller companies a better shot at procurement contracts from the country's biggest spender - the government itself.
One rainmaker asked the government to make it easier for a two-man shop to fire someone if things go wrong. No word on any change to employment laws though.
The plan is for one of the huge media buildings under construction in the Olympic Village to be turned into a tech and media hub after 2012. That will be linked to the East London area known as Shoreditch where more than 100 start ups are currently based. The roundabout there on Old Street is now called "Silicon Roundabout."
The hope is that the start-ups will stay in the area, instead of leaving shabby East London to posher parts of London and California if they actually take off.
And though the government wants to create a small rival to Silicon Valley, many of the valley's darlings are backing the effort. Google, Facebook, Intel and Cisco have pledged to offer expertise to the small companies that stick to the Shoreditch cluster – giving them access to intellectual property and patent experts, to web gurus and to those who can fix a problem for a two man team that would cost to much for them to fix otherwise.
Still, can it work? Can London keep these young people in London with enough funding and advise. Can it keep them from losing out to start-ups in India or Silicon Valley?
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