September 2015 saw the Olympic Park’s former media centre turn into a tech hub for businesses of all sizes. Gavin Poole, Here East’s CEO, headed the £100m project, set on making it one of Europe’s largest data centres – and a leisure spot to boot.
“Here East is going to become a destination in its own right,” he said at the time. “And we have the capacity to fulfil pretty much any requirement of any business.”
It’s the latter statement that caught our attention, with Poole going on to say connectivity was a large drawing point for companies. As a reminder, at the beginning of February we quizzed WiredScore on how a company could garner that elusive Platinum rating – a sign that a business has topnotch connectivity and infrastructure. Here East is one such rare firm.
With that in mind, Poole answered three questions Real Business had on becoming a tech hub and meeting broadband demands.
1) What goes into becoming a tech hub?
Here East’s offer is ambitious, and we provide unique opportunities for the tech and creative businesses which make a home here. Firstly, make sure you can offer space, connectivity and capacity for growth. This will go a long way in ensuring you have tenants. Through this means we gained an impressive list – including BT Sport, Studio Wayne McGregor, Loughborough University, UCL and most recently Signal Noise.
A key attraction for tenants wanting to move to a tech hub is the possibility of collaboration with other businesses – you need to bring organisations together and facilitate interactions.
We will also be opening a new innovation centre, Plexal, in mid-2017. Plexal will be the beating heart of Here East and an important part of our offer. Plexal is an innovation ecosystem, and together with a carefully curated environment, will be the largest campus of its kind in Europe – offering support services to accelerate growth and empower businesses. The more you can offer, the better. There’s plenty more aside from broadband that you need to cater to.
2) How do you ensure business broadband demands are met?
The Press and Broadcast Centres on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the buildings which have been transformed into Here East, were used during the 2012 Olympic Games to broadcast one of the most watched sporting events of all time. Here East tenants benefit from this infrastructure, and have access to power and data.
Connectivity has always been an important part for tenants, so we have to ensure our internet provision is both fast and reliable. Given the existing provision, new tenants can expect connections to be in place quickly. We are currently delivering 10gbps services to ourselves and tenants.
In November 2016, Here East was awarded the highest digital connectivity rating for development and redevelopment from WiredScore, and we received particular praise for the flexibility and diversity of our provision. The WiredScore rating adds a recognised brand to our credentials. This way we hope to help local communities. There are currently 160 small businesses in Hackney which receive super-fast broadcast using Here East’s infrastructure through our partnership with local provider, Optimity.
3) How do you think companies and tech hubs across the UK can similarly attain such connectivity?
Here East is, in a sense, in a unique position given the role of the buildings during the Olympic Games. There are, however, several key factors that might help other tech hubs and companies around the UK offer the best possible connectivity.
In the Industrial Strategy, for example, the government reaffirmed its commitment to investing in digital infrastructure; funding 5G mobile networks and extending broadband provision around the UK. We would of course welcome these moves, and see these measures as essential to improving connectivity around the country. In essence, connectivity needs to be seen as simply another utility.
Ultimately, tech hubs and companies will need to make the necessary investments in IT infrastructure in order to remain competitive, or to attract businesses. Companies and locations that best adapt to today’s changing technological needs will be the most successful.