A view from the top

By Ed Vaizey, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 07 March 2013 07:00AM

The week begins with a visit to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It's an important part of the city's economy and they have built a new conference centre to accommodate it. More than 72,000 delegates from all over the world have turned up to talk all things mobile for something like four days.

A view from the top

For a UK minister, and a member of a government focused on growth, the whole event is incredibly heartening. The first confidence boost is finding out there are more than 200 UK companies represented at the congress, the largest contingent after that from the US, and a good illustration of how well the UK is doing in taking advantage of the explosion in mobile technology.

One of the reasons for our success is the work of UK Trade & Investment, the government agency that helps UK businesses export and encourages inward investment. Through them, I manage to get time with quite a few UK start-ups – companies such as PixelPin, MagicSolver, Truphone, Bluenio, Activ8rlives, Mindspeed Technologies UK, Revector, Rockshore and Vision247, all of whom have space on UKTI’s stand. Rockshore is a great story – it came with UKTI last year and, as a result, won a huge piece of business from AT&T. All the companies I spoke to waxed lyrical about the work of UKTI, so that was a second thing to cheer me up.

Dinner with Randall Stephenson from AT&T, and a clutch (a bureaucracy?) of European regulators. AT&T is making huge investments in mobile in the US. Talk turns to Europe’s fragmented market – where companies such as AT&T could make equally large investments. The digital single market is a massive opportunity for the European Union, which is why David Cameron is right to push our European partners hard to make progress.

The next day, I’m on a panel that includes John Chambers, the head of Cisco. He tells me if you had asked him five years ago if half of his engineers in Europe would have been based in the UK, he would have said no. Now they are, because of the UK’s technology and skills focus and a stable investment climate. The US company AirWatch says something similar. Two years ago, it had four people in the UK. Now it has 220. So a third reason to cheer.

Telecoms is one of the biggest parts of my very diverse portfolio, which goes from culture through to film, TV and advertising. It also includes heritage and architecture, which means I’m responsible for listing important buildings. I got the chance this week to list the home that Richard Rogers built for his parents. I’m a big fan of 20th-century architecture, so it’s great to get the chance to list important modern buildings, which are now as much a part of our heritage as castles or Victorian municipal architecture.

I’m a minister, but also a constituency MP. I can’t make a full day in the constituency this Friday, the normal constituency day, because of Parliamentary business. But I make it to Didcot in time to hold my regular surgery. It’s the best part of the job, representing such a huge range of different people and organisations that are based in Didcot and Wantage, from the military to space scientists. Didcot’s defining symbol is the cooling towers of the power station, which are due to be pulled down in 2015. They were supposed to be laid out by Henry Moore. I wonder if they will be listed?

Ed Vaizey is the minister for culture, communications and creative industries

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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