UK unveils ‘enterprise visa’ plans

The British government will create a new “entrepreneur visa” and reform its intellectual property laws to try to attract high-tech businesses.

Cameron will set out plans to transform a stretch of East London into a high-tech hub to rival Silicon Valley, starting with new investments from the likes of Internet search leader Google, computer chipmaker Intel and social networking site Facebook. “Right now, Silicon Valley is the leading place in the world for high-tech growth and innovation. But there’s no reason why it has to be so predominant,” Cameron will say in a speech, according to excerpts released in advance by his office.

The government last month announced a four-year plan of deep cuts in public spending to tackle a record budget deficit. Almost no area of government spending will be spared the axe and half a million public sector jobs are expected to be lost.

Cameron says he wants to create better conditions for the private sector to generate the jobs and growth that the public sector will no longer be able to provide. The proposed new “entrepreneur visa” would allow people with great business ideas and the backing of serious investors to set up shop more easily in Britain.

The proposal comes at a time when the government is working on plans to introduce a cap on immigration, in line with a pre-election pledge from Cameron’s Conservative party. Some in the Liberal Democrat party, the junior partner in the two-party coalition government, are uncomfortable with the cap. Business Secretary Vince Cable, a Lib Dem, has argued that it would harm business interests by keeping top talent out.

The “entrepreneur visa” could be part of Cameron’s response to those concerns.

Copyright Laws. Cameron will also say that a company like Google could never have started up in Britain because of a copyright system that is not as open to innovation as it is in the United States. So I can announce today that we are reviewing our intellectual property laws, to see if we can make them fit for the Internet age. I want to encourage the sort of creative innovation that exists in America,” he will say.

Cameron will also say that the government has had a series of meetings since it came into office in May with technology companies and venture capital investors to discuss ways to turn East London into a world-class high-tech center. These talks have led to a series of commitments from companies to invest in East London, previously a deprived residential area which is already the focus of regeneration efforts as it will host the London 2012 Olympics.

Projects will include an Intel research lab focusing on performance computing and energy efficiency, an “innovation hub” from Google where researchers, developers and academics can pool ideas, and a permanent London home for Facebook’s “Developer Garage” programme for new talent in high-tech fields.