What is a tech hub? Areas fostering tech innovation explained

What is a tech hub? How do they work? And where are the world’s best places for technology startup companies to put down some roots?

A ‘tech hub’ is a physical space – a city, a suburb or just a suite of offices – which has developed to help technology startup companies succeed and, they hope, become the next tech titan like Facebook or Microsoft. Here we’ll explain what a tech hub is, how they work and where you’ll find them.

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What is a tech hub?

A tech hub is a community – informal or otherwise - that fosters innovation for technology startup companies. A tech hub can be a specific area like Silicon Valley, part of a city like London’s Silicon Roundabout, or a specific building or set of buildings where small startups can rent space alongside each other to share facilities and ideas.

Tech hubs create an environment specifically targeted at helping young technology companies thrive by encouraging experimentation, not demonising failure, and helping firms network with other like-minded individuals and enterprises. It also makes it easier for firms to meet investors in order to get their project funded. It helps ideas germinate and companies prosper. That’s the hope, anyway.

How do tech hubs start?

First of all, a city needs a reputation for innovation, which is fed by a ready supply of suitably skilled graduates holding degrees in STEM subjects – these are science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Cities with universities that are particularly strong in these areas are more inclined to be home to a tech hub. As well as being able to attract these kinds of graduates to relocate there, cities need to encourage its own residents to study these kinds of subjects. Without the right kind of labour skills, a tech hub will struggle to get off the ground.

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What does a tech hub need?

As well as a steady supply of suitable workers, any tech hub worth its salt will need cutting-edge digital connectivity. Think lightning-fast broadband speeds, city-wide wi-fi, and widespread 4G coverage, as well as early uptake of 5G, when that launches. The Mayor of London’s recent pledge to roll out 4G coverage across the London Underground tube network is a good example of why the city is at the forefront of technological innovation. Location and transport infrastructure are also key. While technology has rendered a lot of travel unnecessary, it’s still useful to be able to travel into and out of the city quickly and easily for client meetings.

Where are the most successful tech hubs?

The best-known tech hub is probably Silicon Valley in the US. This section of California is home to the world’s biggest technology companies, including Facebook, Apple, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Netflix, Tesla, and Intel. Many of these were founded in Silicon Valley, too.

In recent years, London has emerged as a successful tech hub, and many tech startups and established global tech players are clustered in the east of the City in an area around Old Street often dubbed Silicon Roundabout. One of the most prominent community workspaces for startups is called TechHub, and winners of BT’s Infinity Lab competition get six months membership, allowing them to share their experiences with and benefit from the advice of tech professionals.

Further afield, Cape Town is South Africa’s home to tech innovation, even earning the nickname Silicon Cape. Singapore – while relatively small – is also quickly becoming one of the world’s major players in terms of technology startups.

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