Parallels are often drawn between the UK and Silicon Valley. How can we rival the ecosystem in San Francisco? Speeding up rail travel would be a good start, it seems. A report co-written by four of the best brains in the entrepreneurial community has concluded that a faster commute between London, Oxford and Cambridge (three of the UK’s biggest tech hubs) would need to be minimised to 40 minutes by 2024.
“We need to see ourselves as others see us: global inward investors see Cambridge, Oxford, and London as effectively a single location…We need to present the UK and its clusters in a more coherent and concentrated way,” the report suggested. The authors said infrastructure changes could integrate the three cities to create a similar scale to Silicon Valley, spurring inward investment, and a creation of more hubs, like Google’s Campus, could create a safe place for innovation.
The report, titled Connect People Build Infrastructure Grow Clusters, explained: “Improving travel times – within and between clusters – would make it possible to share resources in ways not possible today.” It also suggested communication could be enhanced with the placement of large interactive screens in train stations for tech people to converse as if they had bumped into each other. “Walking past such a screen, you might see someone you know (and had been meaning to have a chat with). You attract their attention – wave and say hello,” it explained.
The report’s authors are not lacking in expertise. It comes from the pens of Herman Hauser, a founding father of the UK semiconductor industry, Sherry Coutu, one of the UK’s leading angel investors, Andy Richards, chairman to several biotechnology companies and David Cleevely, a telecommunications expert.
The UK would do well to better connect its bright sparks in and around London. Recent research commissioned by Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, discovered that there are more than 744,000 people employed in technology in the south east of England alone and found Cambridge boasting double the amount of tech start ups per head than any other EU city. With Cambridge being the EU’s leading tech cluster, entrepreneurs suggest a faster commute is required to create Boris Johson’s ‘golden triangle’ vision, connecting London, Oxford and Cambridge.