Silicon Valley, Old Street… Croydon? #TechCity’s role in the growth of tech business in the UK


By - Tuesday 2nd September, 2014

How an expanded Gatwick could fast-track the UK’s tech and science revolution and the part that Croydon can play in it.


Croydon Tech City founders Sarah Luxford, Jonny Rose and Nigel Dias pictured with Cristina Camisotti, founder of Silicon Milkroundabout, and Andrew Collinge.
Photo by Fluid4sight, used with permission.

Release begins: Research shows that Gatwick airport sits at heart of emerging UK science and tech hubs including Croydon, Brighton, Guildford and Stevenage. An expanded Gatwick would offer tech start-ups & SMEs lower fares & better links to European tech centres in Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin & Helsinki as well as unique low cost long haul travel to New York and Los Angeles, as well as supporting a ground-breaking trade mission to take 60 UK small businesses to New York using new low-cost long-haul flights

The expansion of Gatwick Airport could be pivotal for the UK’s burgeoning science and technology sector, as new research has shown.

The Technology, Media and Telecommunications sector is one of the major growth areas for UK plc, with a growth rate nearly three times faster than all other industries.

With smaller ‘start-ups’ and SMEs helping drive this growth, many are focussing on areas outside of central London where office space is more readily available.

Research shows that Gatwick Airport now sits at the heart of a series of emerging technology, science and research hubs throughout the south east in areas such as Croydon, Brighton, East Kent, Guildford and Stevenage (see details further below).

These tech and science centres already benefit from fast and direct rail connections to Gatwick and would further benefit from the expansion of the airport. A second runway would offer science and tech businesses more flights and lower fares to other major European tech centres such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Dublin, and Helsinki.

With these emerging sectors led by smaller ‘start-ups’ and SMEs, low cost business travel is also of importance. Gatwick already provides low-cost travel to 46 of the top 50 European business destinations. ‘Game-changing’ low cost long-haul flights to New York and Los Angeles have also been launched by Norwegian Air, creating further opportunities for small businesses to explore, such as New York’s ‘Silicon Alley’ in Manhattan. A ground-breaking trade mission by Enterprise Nation will use the low cost flights to take 60 UK small firms from Gatwick to New York next month.

The major science and technology centres to which Gatwick has strategic links include:

  • Croydon which is witnessing a technology boom following Croydon Tech City with the area becoming the second fastest growing cluster after Old Street
  • Brighton which has a burgeoning tech scene, recently cemented by the move of US tech giant Dyn and the signing of £170 million deal to create “Silicon Beach”
  • Guildford which has developed a strong gaming cluster with the presence of major companies like video game publishers Electronic Arts and Kuju
  • East Kent which is positioning itself as a hub for technology start-ups as they become priced out of London
  • King’s Cross Central, whose regeneration is spearheaded by the development of Google’s new London HQ
  • The science and research “golden triangle” of London, Cambridge and Stevenage with fast and direct links to Gatwick created by the future Thameslink programme
  • Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, the life science cluster in Cambridge, and the world-class Bio Park lab in Welwyn Garden City
  • St. Pancras where the £500m Francis Crick Institute will soon open as Europe’s largest laboratory
  • the MedCity initiative launched to transform the London-Oxford-Cambridge sciences sector into a “world beating power-cluster”

Gatwick Chief Information Officer Michael Ibbitson, who manages the airport’s own technology infrastructure, said: “Gatwick’s expansion plans not only meet Britain’s future aviation needs, they are also the best choice to support one of the UK’s major emerging industries. Gatwick is strategically positioned for the UK’s burgeoning science and technology industries. Through fast and direct train links to the airport, and more flights, lower fares and better connections to other European tech centres, an expanded Gatwick is the best choice to support the UK’s science and technology revolution.”

Croydon alone accounts for over 1,000 tech, digital and creative start-ups who are within 15 minutes reach of the travel connections Gatwick Airport offers. Helping support the growing community of software developers, technologists and start-up founders is Croydon Tech City.

Croydon Tech City founder Jonny Rose said: In the past two years, Croydon Tech City has seen a 23% growth in the number of digital, tech and creative companies setting up in the borough. As many of these companies now look to expand their offering to international markets, easy access to these countries via air travel will become integral – not just for the economic well-being of South London’s economy, but South-East England as a whole.”

One of the huge success stories to emerge from the Croydon tech boom is Dotmailer.  This was established in Croydon in 1990 and has since grown to become the UK’s largest email marketing provider with clients in 150 countries.

Dotmailer founder Tink Taylor said: “When we started out Croydon offered an ideal base with great transport links and cheap, readily available office space. Now 15 years later despite expanding across the world we’ve kept our Croydon offices because of the better rates and better connections they still offer. We travel extensively so we’re in the perfect location with central London 15 minutes away and nearby Gatwick offering us connections around the world. We’re proud to have been part of the original tech boom in Croydon and it’s great to see the tech community here continue to go from strength to strength.”

Among the organisations supporting growth in the tech and digital sectors is Tech London Advocates – a private sector-led coalition of experts who are helping accelerate the growth of London’s tech SMEs by facilitating partnerships with FTSE-250 businesses, international companies and investors.

Russ Shaw, Founder of Tech London Advocates, said: “A strong infrastructure is required to continue London’s rise as a global technology hub. Transport links are vital to establish international business relationships and creating more flights and lower fares would play a key role in helping emerging tech companies break into new markets, generate new investment and attract new talent.”

Release ends.

Release provider: Gatwick Airport

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