Under the plans, Old Street roundabout will be transformed into the “largest civic space in Europe”
On Thursday morning, Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson have announced a major investment package into the Tech City site, designed to cement London’s reputation as the European IT capital.
Funding totalling £50m was confirmed by the Chancellor as part of his Autumn Statement, enabling the government to go ahead with the ambitious regeneration project for the Old Street area widely known as the ‘Silicon Roundabout’.
Under the plans, the central patch of land will be used to build a technical and creative institute which will provide education, support and business opportunities to startups and entrepreneurs.
Several prominent Tech City companies including Microsoft, Cisco, Research in Motion and KPMG, have today announced their own projects based around East London.
A brand new roundabout
The UK government launched the Tech City initiative in November 2010. Since then, the area saw rapid growth and development, with over 1300 IT companies now based in East London.
Now, the unsightly roundabout located at the heart of Tech City will be transformed into Europe’s largest indoor civic space, to be used by startups, entrepreneurs and the wider community. The new centre will host classrooms, workshops, a 400-seat auditorium and even a 3D printing lab.
It will create at least 15 new jobs for core staff; have capacity to train 10,000 students right from the start and engage up to 50,000 school children every year with enterprise programmes. It is expected that the centre will help 1,000 young people get into skilled employment annually.
London FabLab, an open fabrication workshop, will be based at the centre and will provide local schools with free access to tools and equipement, along with the expertise to be able to use them.
The outside of the complex will feature an advertising surface on the entirety of the exterior via a digital mesh.
Several companies have used the opportunity to announce their own East London–based projects. Microsoft said it will establish a Technology Development Centre in the area, to advance IT and provide Apprenticeship opportunities to young talent.
Cisco, DC Thomson and University College of London will open IDEALondon, an innovation centre that will support local digital and media companies. Meanwhile, Research in Motion has made public the plans to create a test and porting hub for developers following the release of BlackBerry 10.
“We have a vibrant community here full of exciting emerging businesses that are growing alongside some of the world’s most respected tech companies,” said Joanna Shields, CEO of Tech City Investment Organisation who assumed this position in October.
KPMG, Alert Me, language learning social network Busuu and jobs website Career Builder have all announced plans to open new offices in the Silicon Roundabout area.
The number of education opportunities available in East London is also on the rise. Code school Skills Matter has announced it received a $5 million investment that will enable it to teach even more people how to write good quality software, while corporate communication experts Brunswick have launched monthly workshops to teach startups how to effectively get their point across.
“The time is right to lay solid foundations in Tech City for London’s digital revolution, and this list of major new firms committing to the area is a testament to the confidence leading tech entrepreneurs have in the capital,” commented Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
“I am absolutely convinced that the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg, will hail not from Silicon Valley but from this small corner of London, and it’s my hope that this exciting new centre will be pivotal in their creation,” he added.
“The UK is in a global race and I am determined that we as a Government continue doing everything we can to equip the UK to compete and thrive in that race,” said Prime Minister David Cameron.
“As well as backing the businesses of today, we are creating an aspiration nation and also backing the innovative, high-growth businesses of the future. That’s why we’re investing in creating the largest civic space in Europe– a place for start-up companies and the local community to come together and become the next generation of entrepreneurs,” he added.
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