Cameron launches new 'enterprise visa' for overseas entrepreneurs

The PM says those with good ideas - and, importantly, cash - will be welcomed into the UK with open arms. Particularly in the East End...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
It’s fair to say that London’s East End and Silicon Valley don’t have a lot in common at the moment. But that’s all going to change if David Cameron has his way: in a speech today, the PM will apparently signal his intention to make the area, including the bit around the new Olympic Park, a ‘world-leading technology centre’ to rival the Valley. To help fulfil this ambition, he’s creating a new enterprise visa designed to encourage top overseas entrepreneurs to come and set up shop here, as well as relaxing our strict IP laws. Unfortunately, since the Valley has had a 40-year head-start on us, we’ve got rather a lot of catching up to do…

According to this leak of Cameron’s speech (as quoted by the BBC), the idea of the new visas will be that ‘if you have a great business idea, and you receive serious investment from a leading investor, you are welcome to set up your business in our country.’ You might argue that is not exactly rocket science (unless we’ve been turning away well-funded entrepreneurs with great businesses?). But at least gestures like these are a strong public signal of Government support for enterprise in all its forms.

Interestingly, these entrepreneurs will also be exempt from the Government’s proposed cap on immigration – as will the big multinationals who set up shop here. Clearly all that lobbying from business groups (who argued a cap would affect their competitiveness) has paid off, and quite right too. Although immigration caps clearly go down well with a lot of voters, it won’t do the UK any good if they encourage big employers to go elsewhere.

Of course, attracting great entrepreneurs is not just about changing the immigration rules. The Valley’s pre-eminence as a technology hub is also about employment law, proximity to leading institutions, the fact that it’s hot enough for Mark Zuckerberg to walk around in flip-flops, and many other factors besides. IP laws are another big issue – Cameron made the point today that the founders of Google said they’d never have been able to set up their company in the UK. So the good news is that he intends to have our laws scrutinised, and possibly relaxed – perhaps via the introduction of some kind of US-style ‘fair use’ provision.

So these are welcome steps, and arguably long overdue. But somehow, we can’t see the East End outstripping the Valley any time soon. Even if they do make better pie and mash.

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