As I walk down Brook Street in central London it makes me smile to see the blue plaques on two adjacent houses. The circular blue plaques are part of a 140 year old scheme that commemorates where famous people lived or worked in London; a scheme that has been replicated in other parts of the UK and the wider world. The two plaques in Brook Street commemorate German born composer Handel, who lived at one of the homes from 1723; and American rock guitarist Hendrix. who lived at the neighbouring home from 1968-69. The conjunction of the two very different musicians makes me smile – while also showing that London is a crossroads for the world.
Arriving at Paddington to catch the Heathrow Express at the start of my journey back to
Australia this week, I saw another blue plaque; this one on the side of St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, commemorating where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.
Although it might seem an extravagant claim, it really was a discovery that changed the course of history. Penicillin became the “most efficacious life saving drug in the world” (according to Time magazine), which has saved, and continues to save, millions of lives. The blue plaque is a fantastic way of making you see the building in a new light – suddenly it enjoys a place in world history. And it is a nice illustration of the deep the roots of the UK pharma industry run. Did you know that, of the Top 50 global pharmaceutical companies, 37 have sites in the UK? Or that the British pharma industry employs 77,795 people, and has a combined turnover of £31.8 billion?
I’ve been hearing a lot from London colleagues about “Tech City” – indeed, we’ve helped some Australian companies establish there, creating jobs in Britain. Tech City has grown from the original “Silicon Roundabout” in Shoreditch, and there are now more than 500 companies identified as being part of the cluster of tech and digital creative companies in East London. Later this month the “Digital Shoreditch” festival will be taking place to celebrate the digital, technical and entrepreneurial talent of East London. The first, five-day, festival took place last year, and more than 2,000 people participated. This year’s event will take two weeks, and feature a whole series of different events and lectures. The Games event on 31st May looks fascinating – with speakers with great job titles like “Gamer in Chief” and “Chief Play Officer”. If you’re reading this blog from Australia and want to find out more about Tech City or the UK’s digital capabilities you can come and visit us at CeBIT, the Australian technology showcase , running from May 22-24 in Sydney. Our ICT sector specialist, Will Morey, will be visiting from the UK and will be happy to tell you the latest on what is happening in the sector in Britain.
While in London, I enjoyed speaking to Paul Dowling of Dreamstake. The company helps start-ups connect; but also gives them a rating depending upon whether they’ve done the right things as they attempt to grow their business. Dreamstake has over 7,000 people on its platform. The company also rents out space to startups, organises events for its membership and hosts an online community. It is always a pleasure to speak to businesspeople with great ideas, and I enjoyed the conversation with Paul.
If you’re coming to London for the Olympics, you might be interested in joining our own online one-stop-shop, the British Business Club. Registering means you can find out about networking events and business activities happening in the margins of major sports events around the world. It doesn’t matter if you are a British, Australian or Kiwi company; you can go online and be part of the action. Of course, if you’re from Aus or NZ, we hope that it will help you think of investing into the UK – something we’re always happy to talk to you about.