Today I had the opportunity to hear some lively debate around the subject of the digital economy driving regeneration in the Thames Gateway hosted by Thames Gateway London Partnership (TGLP). Illustrious names such as Will Hutton and Chairs Lord Falconer, and Chief Executive of TGLP, Ros Dunn, led an informative debate focusing on London and east London/Thames Gateway in particular as being world leaders in the knowledge economy. This is driven by the great diversity and high percentage of young people in London which gives rise to a rich mix of innovation, entrepreneurialism and, to use the word provided by eloquent speaker Elizabeth Varley from TechHub, serendipity.
The Thames Gateway is home to Tech City in Shoreditch, Media Centre in the Olympic Park and Digital Peninsula in Greenwich. All of these are leading the way to harness and increase growth in high tech and knowledge based industries which are the future economic growth providers for London. David Cameron launched the promotion of digital industries in east London during his visit to Shoreditch in November 2010. This raised the profile of an industry which has been expanding in east London for many years. Indeed, east London has a history of enterprise and creativity from music to fashion designers. The PM’s announcement that digital businesses will help grow the economy will help provide more credibility and certainty which these businesses need to get financial backing.
Anthony Browne, Mayoral Advisor for Economic Development spoke about the six issues which the Mayor is focusing on to support the knowledge economy:
- Promoting the concept – “East London, the Digital Capital of the World”
- Encouraging business investment and engagement
- Ensuring London residents have the skills – apprenticeships and college courses
- Encouraging co-ordination
- National policy aligned to entrepreneurial and digital economy
- Free access to government and public sector data
What messages did I take away from the seminar? Well, regeneration practitioners in all the London boroughs need to develop environments to enable their communities to be part of a growing industry which will bring economic opportunities. This can be through providing the right flexible buildings and infrastructure to support start up businesses, promoting awareness and providing the right training and employment opportunities, and encouraging young people to access science and the arts in schools.