Technology partners for the London 2012 Olympic Games, BT and Cisco, have hit back at a Moody’s report that claimed that the event this summer will have a mainly negative impact on the UK’s economy.
The report, covered in the Financial Times, argued that the £6.1 billion that has been invested to make the Games happen has been filtered through the UK economy over several years and the only sector that is likely to see any gains will be the hotel sector.
This is a far cry from the “massive Keynesian boost to the economy” that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt promised.
However, both BT and Cisco, major technology partners for the Games, have insisted that they believe their input could make a long-term difference.
A BT spokesperson said: “Our own research found British businesses are in a more optimistic mood about the Games, with almost three quarters (73 per cent) of them seeing an opportunity to prosper, despite the tough economic climate.
“It’s fair to say that with the travel disruption and influx of people we’re expecting, a lack of basic planning could cost some businesses. But we’ve been working with a lot of our customers to put things like flexible working and unified comms tools in place, so they could really take advantage of the occasion.”
Furthermore, Neil Crockett, managing director for London 2012 at Cisco, said that the Games should act as a ‘catalyst’ for future economic growth and pointed to the technology sector to provide this.
“We want to build a legacy for the Games, it’s our number one focus. We are putting in a five-year programme so that investment carries on past the closing ceremony. We are really trying to make this a catalyst for the future,” said Crockett.
“If you look at the high tech digital sector, it generates £81 billion Gross Added Value (GVA) for the UK economy, and I think there is potential to add an additional £50 billion GVA over the next five years.”
He added: “The technology and digital sector is one of the only sectors that has rising employment and growth in the UK, so we need to use the Games to drive that forward.”
Cisco’s five-year investment includes a £310 million programme called the British Innovation Gateway, which is focusing on both skills and innovation.
On the skills side Cisco has been working with the Pearson Foundation to rework the science and maths syllabus for 14 to 16-year-olds around an Olympics theme. This has involved sending hard copies of text books to 5,000 schools, with 2,000 teachers involved, and providing additional material available online.
In addition to this it is planning to put 30 ‘network academies’ into the East End of London (the location of the Olympic stadium) where it will provide equipment and e-learning materials for students to get educated in IT up to degree level.
“These aren’t investments that you can measure in the next quarter, these will structurally change the tech sector to make it one of the most successful sectors in the UK, making the UK economy much stronger,” said Crockett.
However, Crockett recognised hat investing in skills for the future was not enough and said that the UK also needs to find “the entrepreneurs of today”.
Cisco plans to do this through the British Innovation Gateway Awards, which will be hosted annually over the next five years. An online innovation platform has been created for people and communities of people to put ideas forward to Cisco.
A shortlist will be compiled and Cisco will pick a winning idea and team that will receive £155,000 worth of cash, mentoring and marketing.
“We are very hopeful these awards will find some great entrepreneurs for today,” said Crockett.
“It is important that the Olympics isn’t just an event that finishes and everyone forgets about. It’s important what happens in the five years after the closing ceremony and the Paralympics.”