One of the exemplary cases of agglomeration is Silicon Valley, not least because it seems to hold out the promise of recovering some sort of viable economic base to otherwise deindustrialising economies. The search for the next ‘Silicon – [insert geographical term here]’ shows no sign of abating. The latest candidates is, unlikely though it seems, ‘Silicon Roundabout’ or Shoreditch, London. Now trading under the name Tech City and reaching up to the Olympic site in Stratford, Prime Minister David Cameron has hailed it as a bright future for UK plc.
There’s no shortage of hype surrounding Tech City, as a recent article in The Guardian attests. US geographer turned guru of the Creative Class, Richard Florida, has dropped by and commented approvingly. It can be hard to see the facts on the ground; after all, a cluster can just be a function of a circle you draw. Maps on Tech City’s own website do seem to suggest a genuine process of agglomeration akin to that described by Alan Watson in his article on London’s music industry.  Whether the spatial proximity of start-ups in disparate sectors will add up to anything substantial only time will tell.
A few weeks ago I finally caught up with the film The Social Network. I know that it’s not a documentary, but I found it a compelling dramatization. Two things struck me in particular. First, if the depiction of Harvard University is even remotely accurate, I can see why it might encourage start-ups in a way that I think Oxford University is unlikely to. We keep you busy with a steady flow of serious study, leaving little time for founding multi-billion pound conglomerates. Second, to make progress Mark Zuckerberg had to go where the money is – northern California. For all the qualities it shares with mercury or water, money as venture capital does not travel far. Although there’s a lot of research going on into this and no doubt some debate, people who study the geography of venture capital often speak of a 20-minute rule. Venture capitalists prefer to invest close at hand. If so, Tech City is in the right place.
 Watson, A. (2008) Global music city: knowledge and geographical proximity in London’s recorded music industry Area 40: 12-23