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PM cites Tech City and TICs as the future

Two government policies on science and innovation were placed at the centre of the new economy when Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on 5 October.

In a speech spanning topics as diverse as the summer riots, gay marriage and Libya, there was little time to cover any topic in depth. However, the overall theme of building a new economy gave Cameron the chance to mention the network of Technology and Innovation Centres being set up to support joint work between academia and business. The TICs, he said, would be central to supporting the growth of small businesses.

“To get proper growth, to rebalance our economy, we’ve got to put some important new pieces into place,” he said. “Taking action now to get credit flowing to the small businesses that are the engine of the economy. And ring-fencing the banks so they fulfil their role of lending safely to the real economy. Setting up Technology and Innovation Centres where scientists and academics can work with entrepreneurs to turn brilliant inventions into successful products.”

Another flagship initiative, Tech City, also got a mention as Cameron discussed his plan “to build something new and to build something better.

“Look what’s happening in East London. Europe’s financial capital is now matched by Europe’s technology capital in Tech City. Facebook, Intel, Google, Cisco—even Silicon Valley Bank—seeing our potential and investing here. Moving away from the old economy to something sharp, focused, can-do country.”

The Prime Minister steered clear of discussing universities, except to mention tuition fees as one of the financial burdens making this an “anxious time”.

“Prices and bills keep going up—petrol, the weekly shop, electricity. On the news it’s job losses, cutbacks, closures. You think about tuition fees, and house prices, the cost of a deposit, and wonder how our children will cope,” he said.

His acknowledgement of concern about tuition fees seemed somewhat at odds with the campaign being run out of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The universities minister David Willetts has worked hard over recent months, including at the Manchester conference, to publicise the idea that increased fees should not be a source of financial concern to parents and potential students, since the repayment system was so fair.