Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, Olympic Park?

Don’t look now, Silicon Valley, but your foreign competition is catching up – and not just India, as it turns out, but the United Kingdom. According to a report last week in The Guardian, British Prime Minister David Cameron plans to build an extensive new high-tech campus in East London, cheek-by-jowl with new facilities for the London Summer Olympics, slated for 2012. (See Olympic Park to Rival Silicon Valley in David Cameron’s Vision for East London, by Patrick Wintour and Alan Travis, The Guardian, 04.Nov.2010.) Leading U.S. tech firms such as Google and Facebook have committed to the project, The Guardian reports, along with other major companies like McKinsey and Intel.

According to The Guardian, Google plans to “create an Innovation Hub for its researchers to come together with developers and academics to create the next generation of applications and services,” while Facebook plans to base its Developer Garage program in London.

The PM’s announcement came along with a promise to relax British immigration laws to allow more inter-company transfers, a measure deemed necessary for the British high-tech sector to compete after plans were announced to cap U.K. immigration levels, starting next year. (See U.K. Plans Entrepreneur Visa to Ease Concern Over Migration Cap, by Thomas Penny and Kitty Donaldson,, 04.Nov.2010.) According to The Guardian, the inter-company transfer provision will make it easier for foreign companies – especially Indian IT companies – to move workers into Britain.

Mr. Cameron also announced plans for a special entrepreneur’s visa to bring more start-up companies to Britain, the details of which visa are to be released later. All of this raises the question of whether the threat of increased foreign competition might be the one thing that can get the two sides of the American immigration debate to work together again – however briefly – to keep our high-tech industries from falling behind in the competitive race.

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