The Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, joined two of the world's leading entrepreneurs, Reid Hoffman and David Hornik, to discuss how the UK can emulate the success of Silicon Valley.
David Willetts started by saying how proud he was the UK science base, and picked out the example of the four Nobel laureates this year whose work had all been in UK research centres. He also stressed that a recent OECD report found the UK had the lowest barriers for entrepreneurship.
However he was keen to point out that the recent moves to eliminate more barriers, with entrepreneur visas, a nuts and bolt review IP and the creation of technology innovation centres, will give us a better chance of producing more innovative companies to power the economy.
Silicon Valley is an ecosystem
David Hornik, from August Capital, said that Silicon Valley works because it is a complete ecosystem. "People there understand risk", he said, "and there are systems that support it".
Reid says connections are the key to growth
Reid Hoffman emphasised how important places like Nesta were for getting people together and sharing intelligence, as that's how he sees Silicon Valley working.
"The key to big growth rate is having open connections between individuals. Lots of people move about in Silicon Valley, between firms,
start-ups, everything. The outcome is that you have an enormous knowledge transfer happening all the time".
Failure should be normalised
He also went on to say how the perceived stigma of failure needs to be eradicated from UK enterprise. Kerry B. Haley, another Silicon Valley expert, called for a show of hands from the UK entrepreneurs who felt that failure was bad. 75% raised their hands.
Reid declared: "That needs to stop right now".
Silicon Valley is a global phenomenon
David Willetts pointed out that more than half of the new tech companies in Silicon Valley were built by people not born in the US.
He emphasised that this is why he was reducing the barriers for talent to work in the UK.
Entrepreneurs should do it for themselves
A question from the floor challenged the UK government to help do more to prop up entrepreneurship.
Reid countered it by saying you just wouldn't get that attitude in Silicon Valley. "It's paradoxical to ask your government to incentivise entrepreneurship. This is something that should never be centralised. You need to foster you own network, and do the hard work yourself".
Mike Schroepfer, VP of Engineering at Facebook, agreed. "The key is to create the right conditions for something like Silicon Valley to flourish, not to intervene. Build the correct ecosystem, and the success will come".