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Plans for UK's Tech Future
November 4, 2010 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Prime Minister David Cameron set out his plans for making Britain more innovation and startup friendly.

The plans include copyright law reform and what some have described as an attempt to create "London's Silicon Valley", including supposed deals to bring Google, Facebook and Intel facilities to the area.

Blogger Revolutionary Measures has a well-thought out critique of the plans which focus on the Olympic Park, an area that would seem to be far from an ideal location for a tech hot bed.
posted by philipy (41 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I know those two things raise one big question: What is government for?

Well, to be drowned in a bathtub, of course. Jeez.
posted by blucevalo at 12:09 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curious about how he'll change UK IP law. Do you guys really not have anything like fair use there?
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 PM on November 4, 2010


We have fair dealing, which is pretty much the same thing.
posted by Artw at 12:37 PM on November 4, 2010


The second new announcement I can make today is to do with intellectual property. The founders of Google have said they could never have started their company in Britain. The service they provide depends on taking a snapshot of all the content on the internet at any one time and they feel our copyright system is not as friendly to this sort of innovation as it is in the United States.

Over there, they have what are called "fair-use" provisions, which some people believe gives companies more breathing space to create new products and services. So I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the internet age. I want to encourage the sort of creative innovation that exists in America.
Interesting. You hardly ever hear anyone in government actually be interested in easing copyright laws.
posted by delmoi at 12:48 PM on November 4, 2010


It'll be interesting to see if they are actually interested in that. I somewhat doubt it.
posted by Artw at 12:51 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Newport State Of Mind has been taken down by YouTube due to a copyright claim by EMI Music Publishing Ltd

Meanies. Still, they'll be bust soon.

Will this mean I can legally rip CDs to my iPod to listen to on the train? That'd be cool!
posted by alasdair at 12:58 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


During a speech he will make today, prime minister David Cameron will outline plans for new entrepreneurial visas, changes to intellectual property regulations and more intra-company transfers.

These measures will help transform districts such as Old Street, Shoreditch and the Olympic Park into the UK's home of technical innovation, he will say.


Free money for Nathan Barleyesque chancers!
posted by Artw at 12:58 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Related recent New Yorker article: Annals of Invention -- A profile of about James Dyson.
"Not only is Dyson the most celebrated British engineer of his time but he is also the unofficial technology czar of the new Conservative government. David Cameron asked him to come up with a strategy for reviving the great tradition of British engineering and invention, which flowered during the industrial revolution and has been in steep decline since the end of the Second World War. The way forward, Dyson argues in his report, 'Ingenious Britain: Making the U.K. the Leading High Tech Exporter in Europe,' is for Britain to go back to designing, engineering, and manufacturing things."
James Dyson's report | March 2010: 'Ingenious Britain: Making the U.K. the Leading High Tech Exporter in Europe' [PDF].

New York Times | November 1, 2010: How to Make an Engineering Culture.
posted by ericb at 1:18 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't buy the blogger's argument - not least because saying London sucks and citing Dublin as a better model is self-contradictory. It's an ok plan; not great, but plausible. Worked for Docklands.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:18 PM on November 4, 2010


The way forward, Dyson argues in his report, 'Ingenious Britain: Making the U.K. the Leading High Tech Exporter in Europe,' is for Britain to go back to designing, engineering, and manufacturing things people want to buy.

FTFY
posted by anigbrowl at 1:21 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This will be just like when Jimmy carter declared Silicon Valley to be the USA's Silicon Valley back in the 70's!
posted by GuyZero at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's other places they could have invested in though, rather than area that's mainly kmnown for containing the smoking ruins of the dotCom Boom. Silicon Fen, for instance. Or the M4 corridor out via Redding and Slough. The UK isn;t lacking it's Silicon this-or-thats. And the article has a good point regarding Universities - something that this government has even less commitment to than the last one.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on November 4, 2010


anigbrowl - people want to buy combination email printers and faxes! They do! They do!
posted by Artw at 1:27 PM on November 4, 2010


Step 1: Secure funding
posted by daniel9223 at 1:35 PM on November 4, 2010


Artw, Cambridge is an OK place to work. It's a dull place to live compared to London. Startups don't need business parks, they need talented dreamers and seed capital. London attracts both. Silicon Fen is better for maturing firms IMHO.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:40 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just so everyone knows, Razorfish's old office is CURSED.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on November 4, 2010


The way forward, Dyson argues in his report, 'Ingenious Britain: Making the U.K. the Leading High Tech Exporter in Europe,' is for Britain to go back to designing, engineering, and manufacturing things people want to buy.

My very nice Dyson machine is made in Malaysia.
posted by three blind mice at 2:05 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


What startups need from government is the tolerance to hand over money with the understanding that startups will fail 80% of the time. The funding goes towards providing "accelerator" space, seed capital, tax breaks for investors, and programming by qualified, quality providers.

Technology entrepreneurialism is a cultural thing - that's why it flourishes in the Bay area. It sounds like Cameron understands this, which is cool.

What I don't understand is how any politician can rationally decide to slash 25% of public spending. Insane.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:07 PM on November 4, 2010


Yeah, another big Tory scheme is to pay prisoners to do factory work - it's like they haven't noticed what's happened in manufacturing in the last 30 year or something.
posted by Artw at 2:07 PM on November 4, 2010


Yeah, another big Tory scheme is to pay prisoners to do factory work

In China they pay factory workers to live in prisons, so... ?
posted by GuyZero at 2:11 PM on November 4, 2010


Not only is Dyson the most celebrated British engineer of his time

Really? Celebrated for overpriced vacuums? He doesn't even make it onto the wikipedia page.
posted by euphorb at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2010


After Cox, Dyson

We need business people who understand creativity, who know when and how to use the specialist, and who can manage innovation; creative specialists who understand the environment in which their talents will be used and who can talk the same language as their clients and business colleagues; and engineers and technologists who understand the design process and can talk the language of the business.’ Sir George Cox, The Cox Review of Creativity in Business

We're still waiting for the final results of the assessment of what's up, mind you... though Dyson did go through about 5000 prototypes before hitting gold and he did kill Hoover's market share.. so...
posted by The Lady is a designer at 2:16 PM on November 4, 2010


Otoh, Silicon Valley is an organic success. Does that necessarily mean carefully recreating it and hoping for the best elsewhere (that's not the bay area with palo alto, stanford, berkeley and the city) OR assessing regional strengths and competencies and then enabling (by design and policy) innovation and creativity in a contextually appropriate and relevant manner to that region/city/nation/culture?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 2:20 PM on November 4, 2010


Government by photoshop filter.
posted by srboisvert at 2:22 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


boo.com didn't need no goverment hand outs.
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on November 4, 2010


The issue is space, literally and metaphorically. We can't build wherever we want to (people or animals are often already living there!), we don't mentally give over space for people to try (x5000) and then succeed. In the manufacturing field, I mean. Intellectually, yeah, we have plenty of space to fail...
posted by dash_slot- at 3:03 PM on November 4, 2010


Intellectually, yeah, we have plenty of space to fail...

So I once attended a focus group for people from Toronto who moved to the Bay Area. The other people in the group were entrepreneurs. And their basic feedback was actually the exact opposite of that - in Canada and I think largely in the UK and Australia, there is actually much less intellectual space to fail versus other countries. In spite of having more support available for them - healthcare for crissakes - a lot of entrepreneurs feel that people just don't understand and support them in a lot of places. This very subtle psychological difference is a big part of why people immigrate to the bay area for the express purpose of starting companies.

That and angel money. But the mentality thing is big. There's lots of money all over the place really.
posted by GuyZero at 3:07 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Otoh, Silicon Valley is an organic success. Does that necessarily mean carefully recreating it and hoping for the best elsewhere (that's not the bay area with palo alto, stanford, berkeley and the city) OR assessing regional strengths and competencies and then enabling (by design and policy) innovation and creativity in a contextually appropriate and relevant manner to that region/city/nation/culture?

if by organic you mean the by-product of huge and unprecedented federal investment to fight WWII: War in the Pacific combined with a 30 year plan by the state of california to build a world class system of higher ed.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:24 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


if by organic you mean the by-product of huge and unprecedented federal investment to fight WWII: War in the Pacific combined with a 30 year plan by the state of california to build a world class system of higher ed.

Shockley could have set up in Boston or near TI headquarters and Fairchild might as well have set up again in any of those locations but for all we know the early semiconductor physicists hated rain and snow and thus all set up shop here. The only thing the US defence investment gave the bay area was an eventual glut of unemployed engineers who fed into the infant semiconductor industry.
posted by GuyZero at 3:46 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


My very nice Dyson machine is made in Malaysia.

Because when he asked for planning permission to expand his UK manufacturing plant, it was refused.
posted by robertc at 5:44 PM on November 4, 2010


Interesting. You hardly ever hear anyone in government actually be interested in easing copyright laws.

Funnily enough, I emailed my Tory MEP in January 2009 about copyright law when stuff was getting voted on in the European parliament, here is part of his response:
[Malcolm Harbour MEP] believes that we need a copyright framework that is both flexible and accessible and the Commission proposal meets many of these requirements. He says that in the digital age, music is readily available online and copyright provisions need to take account of market changes. He thinks that extending the term of copyright to 95 years is essential if we expect performers and the music industry to carry on investing, innovating and creating and it is only right that they are given greater protection for their investments.
I did take issue with the obvious insanity of 'copyright provisions need to take account of market changes' and 'extending the term of copyright to 95 years is essential' by pointing out that the entire history of the internet fitted quite comfortably into the existing 40 year term.
posted by robertc at 5:54 PM on November 4, 2010


James Dyson is a strange chap. The entire interior of the Dyson offices (floors, walls, ceilings, desks) is painted in various shades of purple, and plants are not allowed because he believes that plants do not belong indoors. He also dislikes computers and doesn't use one.

I don't believe he's the ideal person to be consulting.
posted by dickasso at 6:36 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the 90s, these Silicon Whatevers were just a cheap move by politicians for bullshit construction projects. They always built fancy office buildings whose only feature was a high-speed drop (which can be cheaply installed in any city center). Unfortunately, these buildings were crazy expensive to build and even with government subsidized pricing, doesn't compare to warehouse/garage prices.

If they really cared, just give everyone in the local hacker space some cash, way better results with several orders of magnitude less money. Dump the rest in the local University. DONE.

Fundamentally, though, what makes the Bay Area a success is its culture, and you can't exactly force that. Crazy and/or stupid ideas always get accepted socially. If you're at a party/get-together/whatever, and say some harebrained idea, people are ALWAYS accepting. Not so much anywhere else in the US. Many tech companies sound stupid before they become successful, some even after they're successful (SEE: Twitter). I think it's fairly difficult for something like Twitter to exist in London several years ago, it's antithetical for Londoners to have that attitude. You wouldn't have a "oh that sounds cool man, what kind of help do you need with that project?" The flip side, of course, is that it can get annoying how group-therapy touchy-feely everything is. Terrible, TERRIBLE, ideas get accepted because no one wants to be the bad guy and tell someone that the idea is fucking stupid. Of course, wading through the 90% bullshit lets the 10% that are great, truly succeed.
posted by amuseDetachment at 11:28 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't believe he's the ideal person to be consulting.

FWIW the emphasis on needing to support design/engineering/manufacturing as the next step after the stumbling failure of the "ooh we'll all be the knowledge workers and let the coolies carry the heavy load" mentality means that he is currently the closest thing they've got to a Brunel or some such to brand/pin their hopes on.

And he's a nice guy, kooky yes but which obsessive inventor type isn't?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:44 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


GuyZero, ennui.bz : a 30 year plan by the state of california to build a world class system of higher ed. is nothing to sneeze at either as the foundation for such a region. Granted, its the laidback SFO culture as mentioned above and the history of the sixties bringing in a very diverse yet accepting group of people (aka safe environment to fail, sense of community and shared values etc but on a larger scale) but don't overlook the influence of Stanford, Berkeley and all the rest of the various universities and colleges either.

Okinawa is trying something interesting (to me, though the author is bent on shooting it before its born),

It plans to do this by creating info tech, biotech, and environmental science clusters controlled by the government. It has already built a magnificent university campus and recruited world-renowned faculty and researchers to OIST. In addition, the government will create a sizable venture capital fund and assign its specialists to be intermediaries between OIST and local companies. The government specialists will decide what R&D to fund and help small and midsize companies decide on what markets to enter; negotiate financing; form partnerships with other companies; do business development; and modernize their facilities.

Perhaps that's why I was associating the Bay Area with "organic" rather than such kind of assisted growth/development. Which is a better way and where does the UK's efforts fall in this continuum?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:50 AM on November 5, 2010


If they really cared, just give everyone in the local hacker space some cash, way better results with several orders of magnitude less money. Dump the rest in the local University. DONE.

Agreed. Based on my limited experience, Britain is not all that innovator- or tinker-friendly. That has to change first, and can only be changed from the bottom up.
posted by Harald74 at 1:21 AM on November 5, 2010


I don't buy the blogger's argument - not least because saying London sucks and citing Dublin as a better model is self-contradictory.

I wrote the Cameron transcript story linked-to at the top of the page. The piece I think you're referring to when you talk about Dublin is this one, which was written by Wired magazine editor David Rowan, not me. Different person, same site :)
posted by radioedit at 1:40 AM on November 5, 2010


Or are you talking about Chris Measures' article? If so, apologies :)
posted by radioedit at 2:48 AM on November 5, 2010


Is that...is that SPAM? Aaaargh.
Jeez, even here - in my precious, precious MetaFilter!
Mods, please zap that out of the known universe before we find and lynch the guy.
Thanks!
posted by MessageInABottle at 3:44 AM on November 5, 2010


Thanks for the five bucks, though.
posted by XMLicious at 3:48 AM on November 5, 2010


Fundamentally, though, what makes the Bay Area a success is its culture, and you can't exactly force that. Crazy and/or stupid ideas always get accepted socially. If you're at a party/get-together/whatever, and say some harebrained idea, people are ALWAYS accepting. Not so much anywhere else in the US. Many tech companies sound stupid before they become successful, some even after they're successful (SEE: Twitter). I think it's fairly difficult for something like Twitter to exist in London several years ago, it's antithetical for Londoners to have that attitude. You wouldn't have a "oh that sounds cool man, what kind of help do you need with that project?" The flip side, of course, is that it can get annoying how group-therapy touchy-feely everything is. Terrible, TERRIBLE, ideas get accepted because no one wants to be the bad guy and tell someone that the idea is fucking stupid. Of course, wading through the 90% bullshit lets the 10% that are great, truly succeed.
posted by amuseDetachment a


Quoting this for truth. In the 90's I had friends moving from NYC to the Bay Area because the Bay Area was just more accepting of their ideas. These guys went on to start successful companies funded by angel investors - usually men with lots of money and a high tolerance for risk, who seem to gather around San Francisco. It might also just be the culture of the West, the pioneer culture, seeded by families who moved out in the Gold Rush to take risks and make their fortune.

The Bay Area is also now self-sustaining. Talented engineers go there to work for Apple or Google or Yahoo or even older tech companies like HP or Cisco or Oracle. Dissatisfied, they stay in the are and try to start their own company or join a startup. So, you have this constant pool of talent floating around, all well-networked since everyone worked with each other or knows someone who worked with that person.

In some sense, the dot-com boom has never died in that area. Money keeps flowing to new startups. Sure, there are lots of failures and small fortunes are being lost. But, nobody remembers them. Failures pass out of the collective memory. Everyone just sees this impressive collection of successful high-tech companies. But, the old adage applies I suppose: If you aren't willing to take risks, you won't succeed. Is London really willing to take risks or is all this just show?
posted by vacapinta at 4:55 AM on November 5, 2010


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