Over recent years several cities in the UK have become tech hubs in their own right, attracting innovators and entrepreneurs from across the digital and technology spheres. These vibrant clusters are instrumental in developing the UK as one of the premier digital centres in the world. From gaming to cyber security to service software, there is a hub in the UK covering every sector of the rapidly expanding digital market.
This expansion is being facilitated by an outpouring of support, financial and otherwise, into these hubs. The first six months of 2015 saw a record amount of money invested in UK technology companies from venture capitalists, according to figures released from London & Partners. A recent example is Cisco, who are committed to spending $1bn in the UK tech industry through a series of corporate acquisitions, venture capital investments and education programmes.
Support within the cities themselves is strong, with tech incubators and co-working spaces springing up in tech cities across the UK to offer support, collaboration and guidance for start-ups as well as established organisations.
Edinburgh: The city’s reputation for being the incubator of successful start-ups is well deserved, with notable alumni including two unicorns: Skyscanner and Fanduel. There is great diversity within the city, with organisations covering a variety of tech specialties from gaming (Rockstar, Outplay, Reloaded) to media (Tvsquared, Filmhub Scotland) to SaaS (Administrate, Cloudsoft). Edinburgh is home to a range of incubators including TechCube and Codebase, which is now the largest in the UK; spaces which are instrumental in creating the collaborative atmosphere the city is known for. Edinburgh is also gaining international attention, as evidenced by the highly successful Turing Festival, which has seen speakers from Apple, Microsoft and Google. With an extensive history of successful software businesses, notably in Fintech, the city is well placed to continue its dynamic digital growth.
Newcastle: Traditionally seen as an industrial city, Newcastle is building an ecosystem that’s extremely appealing to tech start-ups and investors. The city has a history and focus on IT based software engineering and back office support systems: Sage, a software supplier to more than five million businesses across the world, was founded in Newcastle in the 80s, and still continues to call the city its home. The lack of ‘star’ status around these industries has led to Newcastle often being overlooked, but with the new influx of talent into the area (it has an excellent portfolio of games developers including Ubisoft Reflections, Epic Games and CCP Games) a buzz is starting to grow. Newcastle is also developing a vibrant calendar of digital events, including Think Digital and The DIBI Conference, supported by local incubators and co-working spaces such as Software City and Ignite.
Sheffield: Sheffield is an excellent example of a city actively growing and attracting people to its tech sector. Currently best known for their manufacturing and tech enabled professional service businesses, exciting developments are taking place in Sheffield, spearheaded by organisations such as dotforge, an initiative created to attract and nurture startups from around the world by providing them with pre-seed capital and mentorship. The area boasts several accelerators and networking hubs for startups, with dedicated internet of things (IoT) and social enterprise accelerators. The budding startup scene is also supported by grassroots groups within the tech industry as well as the University of Sheffield, who have been delivering popular startup weekends. Of note, Sheffield was also the city where the Government’s TechNorth Initiative, aimed at promoting collaboration between the tech hubs in the North of England, was launched last year.
Leeds: Leeds is a growing hub for data, Healthtech and Fintech. If nearby Sheffield is the ‘maker’ city, then Leeds is most definitely the ‘data’ city: its expertise in data analytics and management helps underpin many of the developments taking place across the region. Leeds is the home of global health and financial institutions such as TPP and First Direct as well as the base for the National Consumer Data Research Centre. Digital isn’t out of place either: Sky, Rockstar and Echostar Communications all have a presence here. The city isn’t usually associated with start-ups, but steps to make the city more start up friendly are underway. This includes the creation of physical spaces such as RoundFoundry and Duke Studios as well as the collaborative efforts being made by grass roots groups such as Leeds Hack and the Leeds Data Mill.
Manchester: Manchester has always been synonymous with media; the city was quick to go digital, resulting in company growth figures that are amongst some of the highest in the UK. It’s the home of MediaCityUK, the first purpose built hub for the creative and digital industries that now hosts ITV and the BBC alongside a range of other media companies. Resources and support are readily available: TechHub, Northern Quarter, South Manchester Corridor and The Corridor are all digital and tech clusters within Manchester, while the city also has successful incubators and co-working spaces such as The Landing, Sharp Project and SpaceportX. With one of Europe’s largest city economies, extensive resources and its computing heritage, Manchester is well placed in its ambitions to become one of the world’s top 20 digital cities by 2020.
When you look at all of the innovation and growth taking place across the UK, it’s not hard to see why the UK is viewed as one of the world’s strongest digital economies. Which city do you think is going to be next big tech hub? Or do you think we should be viewing the UK as a tech hub in itself? Join the conversation at @nativetalentuk or Digital Leaders Network.
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