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It’s OK, tech firms—Google won’t squelch you

Internet giant Google does not plan to “squelch” innovation by moving into the East London area dubbed Tech City, Theo Bertram, the company’s UK policy manager, has said.

During a meeting of the London Assembly’s Economy, Culture and Sport Committee on 6 December, Bertram said getting involved in the government’s Tech City project was a new undertaking and that the goal would be to support small firms rather than just buying them up.

Google has signed a lease on a seven-storey building in the Old Street area. According to Bertram, the aim was for the East London base to act as a “launch pad” for small tech firms.

The committee is investigating the Tech City project and will publish a report in February on how successful it has been as well as on how to support technology start-up firms.

Bertram met the committee along with others involved in the Tech City project, including Eric Van der Kleij, chief executive of the Tech City Investment Organisation.

The standard of broadband internet service in the Tech City area was also discussed, following concerns that it was not up to scratch.

Kulveer Ranger, digital adviser to Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, acknowledged the problem and said talks were ongoing with BT and other telecoms companies to try to improve the infrastructure.

Jeff Lynn, chairman of the Coalition for a Digital Economy and co-founder of Seedrs, a tech investment company, told the committee that larger tech companies clustered around the M4 would be drawn in by Tech City. These firms, who would not find space in the Old Street area, would be interested in setting up operations in the Olympic Park in Stratford after the 2012 Olympics. This would provide a better “ecosystem” for their work, said Lynn.

The committee expressed some concern about the affordability of the Tech City area for workers.