A leading American tech incubator is considering opening a British outpost on the site of the Stratford Olympics, The Register can reveal.
Cambridge Innovations Center, once home to part of the Google team that designed Android, is in top-secret preliminary discussions with iCity, the company building a digital hub in a formerly neglected corner of East London.
The iCity team has asked the Massachusetts-based group for advice on how to build a thriving tech cluster, while Cambridge has also expressed interest in founding a British tentacle within the Olympics site, The Register understands.
Situated next to MIT in Boston, CIC is the most important tech nursery on America's East Coast. It has hosted some 450 high-tech businesses and startups, including venture capitalists, biotech firms and hardware production companies. Some of its more famous residents include Linden Labs, makers of Second Life, Google and Amazon.
It has been widely praised for building links with MIT, considered among the world's leading tech universities, and Harvard, giving the bright young things a space to build up their fledgling businesses.
Although iCity would not officially confirm the discussions were taking place, a source working at the very top of the organisation said the talks could see a branch of CIC opened on the border between Stratford and Hackney.
Investors from across the pond are more positive about the newly-built Stratford development than they are about Shoreditch's Silicon Roundabout, which is seen as too "untidy" and chaotic to appeal to the average campus-reared American tech worker.
Richard Gibbs, iCity business director, said: "Americans are reacting well to iCity. They like the campus mentality and Shoreditch confuses them a little bit.
"It's just not what they expect, because it doesn’t look like Silicon Valley. I know from talking to United Kingdom Trade and Industry that they have the same issue trying to sell Shoreditch. It is a bit untidy."
He added: "We have had a number of interesting discussion with American organisations. One in particular is the world's leading innovation centre. They have an appetite to try to replicate their model here in the UK.
"This would mean that Britain gets a proven innovation model to replicate and it would also open up all sorts of connections between Hackney and the East Coast. The people who would take space in this innovation centre would see this as a natural way of spring-boarding into the UK and beyond."
The iCity team are also in discussions with a number of companies based in Silicon Valley. Last year, they hosted an event at Hackney House, which was packed full of American venture capitalists, clearly also wanting to, er, "springboard" into the UK.
The iCity development, which we're tentatively calling the Silicon Shopping Centre, is near the site of the Westfield Centre, will eventually create 6,500 jobs and add some £450m to the British economy, its bosses claimed.
Organisations already signed up to open outposts in the high-tech hinterland include national telco BT, which will run a new sports channel from Stratford, and Loughborough University.
One person who's extremely excited about the development is Mayor Boris Johnson. He said: "There is no reason why this area shouldn't be the home of a new boom in not just small startups, but mega companies. Why is it that this country hasn't produced an Amazon, a Google or a Facebook? I think there the answer is there is no reason. It’s going to happen and wouldn't be surprised if it happened in iCity." ®