The magic roundabout: London's Tech City

Goldsmiths is launching training for Tech City start-ups. By Stephen Hoare

Launched in November 2010 with generous tax breaks and grants, Tech City is the UK’s biggest high-tech hub. According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, these five square miles of east London have doubled the number of technology businesses in a run-down area and created more than 500 new jobs.

The creative buzz has attracted Google and Microsoft to set up business incubator units near Tech City’s epicentre, the appropriately dubbed “Silicon Roundabout” on Old Street.

Now Goldsmiths, University of London is re-branding itself to offer professional development and management education to aspiring Silicon Roundabout entrepreneurs. The university will be opening an Institute of Management Studies (IMS) in the autumn offering four specialist MSc courses in leadership and talent management, management of innovation, digital entrepreneurship and occupational psychology. “We’re not looking to attract graduates who want to be accountants or engineers; we’re looking instead for people who want to be good leaders in areas like design and the digital media,” says Frank Bond, director of the institute.

Bond points to role models such as Kevin Ayres, former MD of LinkedIn UK and Ireland and Tech City’s new talent champion, who has launched a mentoring programme to put start-up businesses in touch with people who know the issues involved in raising venture capital and turning a bright idea into a product that makes money.

The first three Masters degrees are brand new and draw together academics from Goldsmith’s Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship.

The MSc in occupational psychology has been running for the past 15 years and is accredited by the British Psychological Society. Bond, a former head of psychology at Goldsmiths, aims to recruit up to 30 students for each Masters programme. So what’s his mission? “In recent years, I’ve seen most of Goldsmiths’ departments, including arts and media, incorporate management into their curriculum.

The IMS focus will be on teaching leadership, and about the techniques of attracting, retaining and developing individuals,” he says.

Occupational psychology, the science behind HR, organisational development and change management, plays an important role across disciplines. “One reason we decided to launch our new institute was that we could get together people from computing design, digital new media and the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship,” says Bond.

The new institute will be housed in part of Goldsmith’s new £8.2m arts complex, where it will be close neighbours with the visual arts department and new media laboratories.

Business links will play a key role in attracting students. Bond has good connections with the BBC’s digital new media people. He is exploring closer links with Tech City and has built a special relationship with the worldwide HR consultancy Kenexa. Based in London and Minneapolis, USA, Kenexa’s High Performance Institute (HPI) sees itself as a strategic partner of Goldsmiths’ IMS. As part of a research project, Kenexa has invited Goldsmiths Masters students to work as interns in HPI. “Part of the rationale behind the IMS is the very high-level work [Bond] and the team at Goldsmiths have been commissioned to do for us,” says Jack Wiley, president of the Kenexa institute.

So what do students think of Goldsmiths’ Institute of Management Studies?

“The jobs market is pretty tough but closer relations with business will help identify opportunities for internships and work experience,” says Alex Birch, a Goldsmiths MSc alumnus and associate director of the workplace research consultancy Ipsos Mori. After graduating in 2005, Birch found that his Masters was respected by employers and opened many doors into occupational psychology and HR.

“My MSc provided a good introduction to the different areas of occupational psychology, such as ergonomics, employee assessment and selection.

I specialised in occupational health and wellbeing and did my dissertation on the personal factors that shape people’s experience of workplace stress,” he says.

If all goes well, Goldsmiths plans to follow up its Masters courses with part-time and distance-learning options for students.

Tech City may only be half an hour away by train and underground – but with a number of spin-off arts businesses beginning to bring regeneration to its native New Cross, Goldsmiths is in an ideal position to offer its expertise to the entrepreneurial talent found in Tech City.