How Cisco plans to spend $500m in East London

Original post by Pete Swabey via Information Age

The network equipment vendor hopes to fund entrepreneurs whose ideas can make the captial smarter and more connected. But on what condition?

In January 2011, networking equipment maker Cisco announced a goal to invest a staggering $500 million in East London’s technology sector over the next five years.

The investment project, dubbed the British Innovation Gateway (BIG), was welcomed by prime minister David Cameron. Cisco’s investment will “help create many new jobs and opportunities, and support our drive to diversify our economy and generate sustainable economic growth”, he said at the time.

So what is Cisco going to spend the money on?

Broadly speaking, its intention is to invest in and support London-based start-ups, especially those that are focused on “smart and connected communities”, Cisco’s jargon for technologies that integrate business, government and civil networks.

For Cisco, the “enlightened self-interest” comes from the fact that if successful, these technologies will drive demand for network equipment and services.

The BIG programme is designed to do this in a number of ways. The most conspicuous components of the programme will be two ‘innovation centres’ – one located in Shoreditch, the other somewhere in the vicinity of the Olympic park.

What exactly is an innovation centre? “That’s a very good question, actually,” says Russell Craig, public sector manager for Cisco’s Internet business solutions group. “It’s a very broad concept, and we’ve deliberately refrained from being too precise about what it is.”

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