The government-backed Tech City initiative, which wants to promote East London as a hub for high-tech start-up firms, has hit back at criticism that it has wasted money on marketing, admin and a basic website.
Tech City, which counts Hackney Council among its key partners, aims to attract technology entrepreneurs and investors to the area centred around Shoreditch’s so-called Silicon Roundabout.
But after a series of Freedom of Information requests, technology bloggers were outraged to discover that the Tech City Investment Organisation, the body behind the Tech City project, had spent over £1m on marketing and admin in just one year.
The website techcityuk.com, which cost £50,000, also came in for criticism last year when it emerged that it was based on a simple WordPress theme. Tech City defended the website as good value for money.
A Tech City spokesperson said: “The spending on Tech City has had a direct impact on the number of technology and creative companies that have opened offices in Tech City.”
They claimed that there are now over 600 such firms based in East London compared with 200 in November 2010, although some bloggers have questioned whether all of these companies can strictly be defined as tech or creative businesses.
The rest of Tech City’s £1m budget has gone on networking and mentoring events for aspiring entrepreneurs, and on lobbying the government to introduce tax breaks and other incentives for high-tech start-up firms.
The spokesperson added that Tech City hopes to boost the local economy in Hackney by attracting high-tech investment into the Olympic site after the 2012 games.
They said: “This will benefit the Hackney community in several ways, including improving local amenities and creating jobs – not just high-tech ones, but also more widely across the local economy.”
Hackney Council describes itself as one of Tech City’s ‘key delivery agents’ and has so far invested £35,000 of its own budget in the project.
Most of the money has gone on the development of a high-tech apprenticeship scheme, designed to encourage the borough’s young people to consider a career in the creative technology industry.