On a visit to London Tech City, Matthew Wright wonders who’s kidding whom.
‘The phrase “Silicon Roundabout” entered the consciousness of entrepreneurs with dizzying speed. It is now seen as the vibrant and frenetic heart of a creative cluster of businesses in London.’
At least, that’s what it says on the website.
Derived from Silicon Valley, the legendary home of computer development in California, ‘Silicon Roundabout’ is an affectionate term for what is properly known as London Tech City, which used to be simply the area around Old Street, complete with slightly dodgy print shops, a roundabout, and a full set of dingy subways styled in white 1970s tiles.
Like a lesser version of Cool Britannia, it’s one of those terms which is not officially sponsored, yet officialdom quite likes it anyway. In this instance, the term suggests proximity to the considerable advances and the Mega-Big Bucks of Silicon Valley, with a bit of British self-deprecation thrown in. It can be roughly translated as: we know we’re only a roundabout not a whole valley, but we’re important just the same.
When I visited the area earlier this week, however, there was precious little ‘frenetic’ activity; and not much sign of ‘smart economy’ investment, even though this is alleged to have been pouring in (or wheeling round and about) since the government first backed the idea in 2010.
Silicon – isn’t that what’s used to inflate things out of proportion? Sounds singularly appropriate!