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An Ambassador's perspective: Boston knows innovation

Posted by Chad O'Connor  July 16, 2012 11:00 AM

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Photo courtesy of British Consulate-General Boston
Sir Peter Westmacott
The Boston area is home to many of the most famous sites of America's break from Britain - the Old State House, where the royal governors sat; the Old North Church that launched Paul Revere's famous ride; the harbour where the first tea party took place; and battlefields like Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord where the colonists first proved their fighting grit.

But visitors these days – I was there earlier this week - are more likely to find a city and a Commonwealth with much friendlier, more productive ties to the UK.

After all, the UK is the largest international employer in the Bay State: 40,000 people in Massachusetts work for British businesses. More than 250 Massachusetts companies prosper from investments in the UK. Both are home to giants in the global financial sector - Fidelity has found a home in the UK, and RBS is growing its US operations in New England (via its ownership of Citizens Bank). We even share in the business of sport: the owners of the Boston Red Sox also own the English Premier League's Liverpool FC.

Our shared economic foundations make Massachusetts and Britain natural partners. I heard this message repeated when I sat down with business leaders and with Governor Deval Patrick. The Governor led a Massachusetts trade mission to the UK last year, an important step in deepening the bonds between Britain and the Bay State. Our Consulate in Boston has spent much of the last year focused on the follow-up to that trade mission: high-profile events at the Massachusetts State House and MIT's MediaLab, and senior British Ministers eager to partner with the Massachusetts 'hub of innovation.' I met a number of the businesses that went on the Governor's trade mission - and other senior political figures including the Massachusetts Senate President - at a reception at Boston's Athenaeum, one of the best-loved buildings on Boston's Beacon Hill.

These business ties are only getting stronger. I had the chance to visit the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), an incubator for 480 budding technology and life sciences companies. With world-renowned universities like Harvard and MIT just around the corner, the CIC gives the best minds in cutting-edge business access to state of the art research facilities and technical services.

This same model - attracting the best of the best to the same place and giving them the tools they need - is one we have in place in the UK. In East London, just a triple-jump away from the gleaming new Olympic Park, Tech City is home to technology companies across the full spectrum - from established giants like Cisco and Google, to promising entrepreneurial newcomers like Yammer and Airbnb. They are reaping the benefits of recent infrastructure and technology investments, as well as our tax reforms that encourage innovative business. And with three of the world’s top 10 universities - Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London - just a short train ride away, companies in Tech City have access to top-calibre young talent.

I was delighted to visit Boston - a part of America that shares a special link with the UK, strengthened over time by partnerships in business, academia and culture. I encourage New England businesses that are interested in the UK to search online for our British Consulate in Boston and connect with the team: they stand ready to help you grow your business and spread your wings abroad.

Sir Peter Westmacott is the British Ambassador to the United States.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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