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Tuesday29 July 2014

Start-up strategy may be short-sighted

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Government funding for an east London institution for tech firms overlooks the nature of the industry

Ellis Woodman

Ellis Woodman- Executive Editor

In a year when investment in public buildings of any sort has been in notably short supply, news that the government has agreed to stump up £50 million towards a new civic institution serving the east London community of tech start-ups raises eyebrows.

The many hundreds of companies that have gathered around Old Street roundabout in the past decade have evidently thrived without the provision of such a purpose-designed building. The fact that rocketing rents are prompting many to consider moving on from the area suggests that the focus of this rapidly transforming industry may well have shifted by the time the new building completes.

As this week’s feature on the proposed expansion of Canary Wharf makes clear (page 9), other parts of London are certainly keen to lure tech start-ups. However, the larger question is whether a designated institution is required at all. The important forums where the members of this industry convene are surely always going to be digital rather than built.

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