Britain lures talent: sci-tech entrepreneurs move in

Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:19pm EST
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By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - It took only a few weeks of research for Romanian entrepreneur Emi Gal to decide where to base his digital media firm, and his choice confounds a fairly enduring set of stereotypes about Britain's global appeal.

"London is pretty much the center of the world if you want to work in media and advertising," the 23-year-old told Reuters.

As the government campaigns for re-election this year in the face of headlines predicting an exodus of financial brains if bankers' bonuses are more heavily taxed, voices like his may be heard with increasing frequency in some national media.

But international experts agree there has been genuine progress in the country which a few decades ago was fast fading as a magnet for the science, health and technology brains and entrepreneurship that also drive the knowledge economy.

Besides Gal, whose software allows media companies to make money from online videos by adding "hotspots" to outlets for consumer products, others are increasingly choosing Britain as the place to be.

Around 100 have in the past five years picked the country as a hub: in global migration terms they are a trickle, but are nonetheless countering a "brain drain" of talent symbolized 20 years ago by the departure to Switzerland of the inventor of the World Wide Web.

Tim Berners-Lee, a graduate of Oxford University, had to move to Geneva to access the largest internet node in Europe, at the CERN physics laboratory.

In response to a set of policies put in place a decade after he left, data from the British government's department for trade and investment (UKTI) now show new businesses from such countries as the United States, South Korea and Israel have also relocated or set up new headquarters in Britain.   Continued...

<p>A Google employee holds up a mobile phone to demonstrate how the new Goggles application recognises Big Ben as seen from Westminster Bridge in central London December 7, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>