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Kathryn Cave (Global) - Tech Hubs: Will California or Nairobi Lead the Way?

Tech Hubs appear to be the latest media obsession, but will Silicon Valley, London, New York or even Nairobi lead future innovation? Kathryn Cave investigates the rise of Tech Hubs around the world, and what it means for technology, entrepreneurialism and global business.

Earlier this month Bravo launched a new reality television show called ‘Start-ups of Silicon Valley'. Not surprisingly, this has pretty much nothing to do with Start-ups, or Silicon Valley for that matter, and has proved more concerned with the small-scale dramas of some beautiful people. However, what it does show is how the media spotlight has gradually turned to technology, entrepreneurialism and especially Tech Hubs.

In fact Tech Hubs have become something of a global media fixation in recent years. As the internet decentralises business; it facilitates the rise of smarter, more reactive organisations bubbling up in new epicentres all around the world. This has a clear socio-economic impact and is integral to technological development. New research from the Centre for Economic and Business Research, for example predicts that over the next five years Hackney's "Silicon Roundabout" will be the driving force behind London's economy.  Whilst the 2012 KPMG Innovation survey looks at how Asia is forging change across core areas such as mobility and commerce. Significantly, findings also reveal that of those who believe that Silicon Valley is on the way down; 44% think China will be the future.

In the last couple of years there has been a particularly high volume of commentary about emerging centres on the African continent. The BBC has written extensively about a "Tech Hub boom" and describes "a buzz, [of] palpable energy, running through the corridors of Africa's capitals and urban areas, [much of which] revolves around tech."  The Africa continent currently has over 50 labs, incubators and accelerators covering more than 20 African countries and six of these are in Nairobi centred at the iHub. Despite a launch only two years ago, this has been dubbed the "unofficial headquarters of Kenya's tech movement" and "Poster child for Africa's tech scene." It even includes a research division that aims to discover the factors that make up ICT hubs in Africa (Afrilabs).

Hubs are also springing up across the United States from places as diverse as Bolder Colorado, Kansas City and Northwest Arkansas.  Important cities like New York are all now desperate to become the next tech capital. This July, Newsweek Magazine published an article on how Roosevelt Island, once only home to a lunatic asylum and smallpox hospital is set to become the next big place.  And centres like this do have an edge when there so many companies desperate to set up offices on the east coast of America.

The boom in Tech Hubs has become such a focus in both the media and the technology industry; it seems that there is endless speculation as to where the next big nucleus will be. Within Europe alone there have been numerous contenders put forward - from Tallinn to Berlin; Estonia to Dublin.  Start-up Compass has demonstrated that seven of its ‘Top 10 Tech Hubs' are based outside the US in places as diverse as Toronto, Tel Aviv, Singapore, Sao Paulo, Bangalore and Moscow. Whilst Latin America has also become a new talking point for many pundits.

There appears to a real international obsession with finding the next Silicon Valley.  Yet, as Ciara Byrne wrote recently for VentureBeat, "you could not create Silicon Valley anew in California if you started now. There is no longer any silicon for a start." In a very interesting commentary piece she highlighted how cultural differences are all contributory factors in a move towards innovation; referencing a fascinating article which made for a good Scandinavian case study. This put forward the suggestion that Nordic innovators bring their own unique emphasis on collectivism to the table; making the wider point that most localised areas bring their own cultural nuances to the marketplace.

So, with all this in mind, where do you think the future of technology will be? Nairobi - with its uniquely Kenyan approach to technology? New York - with all the paraphernalia that suggests? Perhaps Dublin, Singapore or China... or maybe somewhere else entirely?

 

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