Let’s create ‘Silicon Britain’ - says boss

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Sheffield-born Silicon Valley software company chief David Richards has urged Britain to abandon its obsession with recreating Silicon Valley in London and create a ‘Silicon Britain,’ instead.

Mr Richards, whose company, WANdisco, has offices in San Ramon, California and Electric Works on Sheffield’s Digital Campus, launched his call in response to remarks by Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne at the opening of the Google Campus in London.

Mr Richards says the Chancellor’s speech rekindled the debate about the UK’s ability to create a global tech start-up hub to rival Silicon Valley.

He said: “Any move to foster a greater number of tech start-ups in the UK should be applauded. What we should be discouraging, however, is our continuing obsession with recreating Silicon Valley in London.”

He argues that comparisons between Silicon Valley and what has been dubbed London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’, on the borders of Hackney and Islington, are unproductive.

“The Valley’s unique combination of world-class universities, highly sophisticated investment infrastructure, established technology giants and start-up ecosystem is exactly that: unique.

“Instead of creating a pale imitation, Britain should instead build on its own strengths – of which there are many.”

He says the UK should train more local talent in the technical skills demanded by today’s technology companies and provide them with a stimulating working environments that will reduce brain drain migration to other parts of the world.

Mr Richards says the UK should also start thinking bigger, highlighting the fact that, in US terms, the distance between Sheffield and Belfast – where WANdisco also develops its world-beating software – is “tiny”.

Mr Richards said: “There are lessons we can learn from Silicon Valley without trying to become a carbon copy of it, and still succeed in boosting innovation in this country.

“This approach means we can produce more of the technology firms that rival those from all over the world and lead the way with our own Silicon Britain.”

WANdisco’s Subversion system dominates the software development market and is used by blue chip corporates around the world, that develop commercial software or bespoke administrative packages used in running their own businesses.

Subversion enables developers who are working on different parts of a package to keep track of different versions and ensure updates are made to the latest one.