Feb 9, 2015 8:07 PM

London mayor touts life sciences in visit to Massachusetts

The Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) London Mayor Boris Johnson, launching a six-day swing through the East Coast, on Monday took on the role of traveling salesman, encouraging a packed room of some of the nation's top college students and entrepreneurs to consider launching their careers as part of his city's growing technology sector.

Speaking at the British Consulate, near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's campus, Johnson said London's economy is undergoing its "greatest transformation" since the Industrial Revolution made it a global power in the 1800s.

Johnson said the tech industry accounts for 27 percent of all new jobs in London and represents a larger workforce than the city's financial services sector.

Drawing frequent laughs from the crowd, he rattled off a long list of greater London's scientific and technological firsts, from Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection to the world's first traffic light.

He also touted London's other selling points, from a high concentration of American and international students to its world-class restaurants and record low murder rate.

"The conditions are right. The potential is there," Johnson said. "Our ambition is very, very clear: to make London one of the two greatest biotech hubs in world. ... To make sure the next Apple grows in (the) land of Newton."

Earlier Monday, Johnson met privately with Boston leaders developing the city's proposal for the 2024 Summer Olympics. A spokesman said the mayor used London's experience hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics to stress the importance of presenting a strong, long-term plan for redeveloping neighborhoods, public spaces and transit.

The U.S. Olympic Committee recently selected Boston as the country's choice to compete for the 2024 games. The city's proposal is due to the committee, which governs the Olympics, in September.

Johnson's U.S. trade mission includes stops in New York and Washington, D.C.

In New York, he's expected to meet with Mayor Bill de Blasio and police Commissioner Bill Bratton and visit the World Trade Center site. In Washington, he's expected to speak at a forum hosted by the research group the Brookings Institution.

In Boston on Sunday, Johnson met with state transportation officials to see what his city can learn from the infamous Big Dig project, which relocated the city's elevated highway underground and remains the country's most expensive highway project, at nearly $15 billion.

He also announced new investments by U.S. companies in London on Monday. Mobiquity Inc., a Massachusetts-based mobile engagement company, is among those, with plans to establish a $20 million European headquarters there.

The latest major snowstorm to hit New England scuttled some of Johnson's public appearances, however.

Among those was a Monday morning visit to Harvard University and an evening public forum about London's Olympics experience at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall, where American colonists stoked the fires of independence from Great Britain.

Johnson is a Conservative Party member who has served as London's mayor since 2008. He is running for a seat in Parliament this year.


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