Are digital clusters the answer?

 In Archive, Britain, Digital

3Deal Mark Goldfinch at Level 39 Canary Wharf for conference

It’s all about clustering. That was the distinct message I took away from the excellent East London meets East Kent / Emerging meets Established event.

On 12th February I hopped on the 6:30 train to Stratford International then tube to One Canada Square Canary Wharf. At Tech City on Level 39 I joined about 150 people committed to growing tech businesses in London and East Kent. The event was organised by the Seven Hills ‘Grow for it East Kent’ team, themselves sponsored by Kent County Council.

KCC leader Paul Carter and seniors from the Economic Development Team like Mark Dance were there, together with many founders and business owners like myself from London and Kent. Prominent were big names like Eric van der Kleij Head of Level 39 and former CEO of Tech City, and Charles Armstrong of the Trampery and Trampoline. Charles introduced a fascinating map of digital East Kent showing the numbers of tech companies operating around the region.

3Deal Mark Goldfinch Canary Wharf digital panel

Canterbury led the way of course, with lots of innovative work going on there. I met Lizzie Hodgson who instigated #digibury as a regular meeting for technology businesses in the city. I also met Liam Gooding who set up the area’s first co-working space: the Fruitworks(.co).

Folkestone had the second highest number of tech businesses, followed by Ramsgate (possibly the figure for all Thanet) and I was rather surprised to find Deal in 4th place with 40 tech businesses.

I started to muse on ways of taking this information and using it to benefit our communities. As I’ve written before, East Kent suffers not just from remoteness, but also from the low densities of its traditional towns. Clustering is the easiest way to counteract the density problem. So from the Level 39 eyrie far above London it seemed there was cause for optimism: fast trains can make the area more accessible, and clustering might be the solution to the low densities.

As well as being a super networking event, the morning produced a real buzz of shared purpose and an evident ‘can-do’ attitude.

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