For as long as many of us can remember, high-tech industries have flourished in the suburban office parks that are so ubiquitous in Silicon Valley, North Carolina’s Research Triangle and other “nerdistans.” But in recent years, high-tech has been taking a decidedly urban turn.
Silicon Valley remains the world’s pre-eminent center of high-tech industry, of course. But even in the Valley, denser, more mixed-use and walkable places, like downtown Palo Alto, are becoming the preferred locations for start-ups and smaller firms. And many other start-ups—Pinterest, Zynga, Yelp, Square and Salesforce.com, to name just a notable few—are taking up residence in downtown San Francisco.
..The speed of technology has also accelerated. The companies that succeed are the ones that stay in the closest contact with their end-users and first adopters, as MIT’s Eric Von Hippel has shown. When a company is located in a city, many of those end-users can be found right on its doorstep.
At the same time, high-tech products and industries are more multidisciplinary than they used to be. Success often requires excellence in more than one field of technology and in other lines of business. East London’s tech scene is led not by tech firms per se but by “digital creative” companies that combine computer technology with music, art and narrative—and musicians, artists and writers cluster in cities.