One Year to Go – London 2012 showcases the cream of British talent and unlocks opportunities for overseas firms By Paul Brummell, British High Commissioner
With a year to go until the 2012 Olympics, the UK is getting ready to host the greatest show on earth. And we at the British High Commission in Bridgetown will also be celebrating on 27 July, the day which marks One Year to Go until the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. We have launched a Facebook competition – www.facebook.com/ukinbarbados – featuring Olympic Quiz questions, and will invite winners from Barbados and from the Eastern Caribbean to be presented with their prizes of Olympic memorabilia in the company of the Barbados sports fraternity.
Whilst the Games will leave a powerful legacy for East London communities, and for London and the UK as a whole, it also offers the UK an unprecedented opportunity to showcase its abilities on the world stage – not only as a leading provider of sporting occasions but as a source of innovative products and solutions.
Indeed, with the spotlight on UK talent across a gamut of industries, there is no more opportune a time than now for global firms to complement their own skills with British goods, services and expertise to help them grow business overseas.
Meanwhile, the Olympic Park itself – and indeed the rest of the UK – is unlocking a wealth of investment opportunities – from new housing developments, incubator space for start-up companies to being right in the heart of the vision for Tech City.
Global firms are already playing their part in London 2012 and reaping the benefits from basing themselves among like-minded, dynamic businesses. US company, SME, for example, a New York based provider of branding and design solutions, opened an office in the UK in 2010, having successfully bid for the contract to design and develop the 2012 Olympic mascot. London’s proximity to Europe, an abundance of creative resources and an ‘internationalised’ business environment were major factors for SME when choosing the city for their latest operation. SME has since achieved a high level of brand awareness with sports organisations across Europe and throughout the UK.
Similarly, Chinese company Crystal CG, one of the largest computer graphics firms in China, opened its UK-based operation in 2007 – drawn to London in particular for its reputation as the region’s design capital. The company has since expanded its presence in the UK – having officially launched its London-based European operation and production team Crystal CG International in March 2010 and becoming the official digital imaging services supplier for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Crystal CG International is already establishing itself as a major player in the UK’s media market, and there are plans to set up local European operations driven from its London-based European head-quarters.
The Olympic Park will not just be a focal point for a short-lived sporting event. The legacy left behind will stretch well beyond the last athletes packing up their shoes and heading home. For example, a new community will be created, (including some 9,000 homes) – presenting significant opportunities in infrastructure for overseas firms to tap into.
And it doesn’t stop there. Tech City, a rapidly growing cluster of pioneering technology firms, are helping to create the world’s next generation of high-tech entrepreneurs – fusing the energy and innovation of East London, which stretches from Shoreditch to the booming Olympic heartland of Stratford.
This phenomenal burst of growth, which grew from a handful of high-tech companies (15 in 2008) to some 250 businesses today, has created one of the largest concentrations of rapidly growing, digital technology firms in Europe. It is already burgeoning into what could become a world leading creative innovation cluster. The UK’s leading research universities are adding their entrepreneurial technology commercialisation skills.
Indeed, it’s this cross-fertilisation of ideas between key sectors – from academia to the wider creative industries – that are attracting investors across the globe and in turn spurring growth and innovation. Intel has pledged to establish a new research lab in the area; Google will create an innovation hub to develop the next generation of applications and services and it will be the permanent home for Facebook’s Developer Garage programme.
But it’s not only technology where collaborative partnerships are being fostered. With London 2012 hailed as the greenest Olympics ever, the Games will provide the ideal platform from which to promote the UK’s green credentials in developing and delivering tailored sustainable solutions.
From the low carbon construction and land contamination techniques deployed in building the park – currently the biggest regeneration project in Europe – to the innovative design and architectural solutions that minimise use of resources and ensure buildings achieve the highest standard in energy efficiency, the UK offers a wealth of expertise for overseas firms.
When it comes to renewable energy, the UK has already attracted £15 billion in investments for projects over the past 10 years. In 2009 alone, some £7 billion was invested in energy technologies across the UK – the highest level in Europe and the third highest globally. And looking forward, the UK is expected to provide around £100 billion of investment opportunities in the renewable energy sector between now and 2020.
While the strategic and cohesive planning of London 2012 has set a precedent for future hosts, the world’s eyes are now on the UK. Indeed, there has never been a better time to access the breadth of UK talent and unlock the opportunities that the Olympics will generate – bringing people and business together along the way.