Trying to replicate this is an obvious temptation. Many have tried, from cities and states in America to Silicon Fen outside Cambridge and new technology zones in Dubai and Moscow. London now has “Silicon Roundabout”, sandwiched between the City and a revitalised East End, which is becoming a magnet for tech companies and investment.
Frederick Terman, a professor of engineering at Stanford University credited as the father of Silicon Valley, observed that “for activities involving a high level of scientific and technological creativity, a location in a centre of brains is more important than a location near markets, raw materials, transportation, or factory labour.” He realised there was no use Silicon Valley trying to compete with the East Coast. Rather, he developed a strategy of “steeple building”, focusing on technical niches, such as microwave tubes, developing the best research programmes and attracting federal and corporate funding.
Those who try to replicate Silicon Valley tend to build spaces, offer tax incentives, invest in research universities and hope the rest will follow. It does not. The real lesson is not to waste time dreaming of California.
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