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East London tech hub banks on China for expansion

By Bo Leung in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-11 13:04
A view of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. [Photo/IC]

Six years after hosting the London 2012 Olympic Games, East London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has transformed into a technology and innovation hub.

The former Olympic press center has become Here East, a state-of-the-art tech hub providing space for emerging innovators, established companies and startups.

More than 3,000 people now work at Here East and the number is expected to grow, with Chinese businesses being one of the target markets for Gavin Poole, its CEO.

"China has a huge growth market," Poole said. "Brexit is looming upon us and China has a growing economy - it's a world leader in some areas. What tech firm Alibaba did was just phenomenal."

The Here East CEO said the regeneration of Stratford in London, where the Olympic Park and Here East are based, is a major selling point for new and established companies.

"The whole story of regeneration around the Olympic Park means we become an obvious choice to come to," Poole said. "It's not just about the regeneration of the Olympic Park or homes or jobs, it's actually something very specific around technology, the creative industries and the use of universities."

Here East is already home to businesses such as BT Sport and Sega Games Co Ltd. In August, the Victoria and Albert Museum became the latest tenant at the hub following plans to open a new research center.

Poole wants to encourage all the businesses at the park to collaborate, network and communicate as a way to develop the technologies of the future.

He said companies will also benefit from working with Loughborough University and University College London, which both have bases at the Stratford hub.

Some 60 percent of international students at Loughborough University are from China, according to Poole.

"They are brilliant minds. They put together the innovation syndicates to help our businesses and solve some of the problems," Poole said. "The Chinese students are exceptional, so what I want is more of their minds and thinking to come over here."

Poole said he wants to see a change to policies in order to allow international students to transition from education to employment in the UK and develop businesses.

"Some go home with outstanding business plans and models and I would like them to come into our innovation center and build them out here, but unfortunately the visa system isn't allowing that to happen," he said.

Looking forward, Poole's message is clear - come to Here East and engage.

"Whether you are studying, concepting out a business model or looking for a foothold in London or the UK market with an entry point into Europe, come to London and come to Here East," he said.

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