We hear on a daily basis how ‘Silicon Roundabout’ and the London technology sector are revitalising the UK economy. However, a recent Techworld exclusive revealed that funding is being pulled for the regeneration of the Old St area, while government quango Tech City UK revealed earlier this year that it's changing its focus from London to the UK as a whole. Both stories suggest that London’s start-up crown may be up for grabs in the near future.
Don’t get me wrong, London is an incredible place for innovation and has seen some truly great companies form. However, Tech City UK’s own CEO, Gerard Grech, concedes: “London is obviously an international city, but I think there is so much else going on outside London.”
While London will continue to prosper for some time, what are the other areas that are building momentum? Which region is the challenger for top UK tech?
Here are five examples of cities and regions paving the way for a UK-wide tech cluster, including info on some of the start-ups that are rising to the top in each area.
The cities have been chosen based on their positioning within the techbritain.com cluster ranking and they've been verified by external research.
The UK is a unique in its economic landscape, with no real ‘second city’ to speak of. However, if anyone could lay claim to being London’s growing sibling, Manchester would certainly be it.
The city boasts a £46 billion economy and its recent Media City development saw £1.1 billion added to this figure. The reason it is flying high on our list is that the technology and communications sector was responsible for £1.9 billion in 13/14, making it the highest GVA outside of London for technology, employing over 30,000 workers in the digital space.
Fatsoma - an online ticketing solution, Nifty Drives - expandable storage that fits neatly into your Mac, PharmaKure - pharmaceutical company that identifies new uses for existing drugs, Capsule - A CRM solution for small business, Clowdy - a community for creatives to share content.
At the time of writing Edinburgh can be included in a UK list, however this city could very soon become Scotland’s foremost tech hub!
There are currently more than 100 technology start-ups in Edinburgh’s ‘hub’, spurred on by SkyScanner’s 2003 relocation to the city and subsequent growth. This tech success story has seen others follow suit and the city is home to TechCube - an incubator specialising in the growth and development of early stage start-ups through community and mentoring.
Technical, communication and information jobs contribute a respectable £500 million to the city’s economy by GVA for 13/14.
Cambridge has over 1400 companies employing 53,000 people. Twinned with one of the world’s greatest universities it is clear to see why this city is leading the way in the recovery of the UK economy and is tipped to be one of the biggest contenders to London’s tech reign.
At a recent tech event, a Cambridge graduate who has since gone on to found his own start-up visibly recoiled when I suggested Cambridge was second to London. There is a perception that innovation in technology has always come from Cambridge, and with companies such as ARM providing the processors behind the majority of mobile devices across the globe it is easy to see why.
In a 2012 report by Centre for Cities - the think tank found that Cambridge had a lower unemployment rate than even London, with the technology industry playing a large part in that.
Crowdsurfer- an alternative finance search engine, Eight19 - producer of flexible solar panels, RaspberryPi - a credit card sized computer for education, Darktrace - a cyber-security threat detection technology provider.
The North East in general is becoming known for the development of software start-ups with some significant successes already in place and the potential for thousands more. Newcastle sits at the centre of this ecosystem founding and headquartering some of the North East’s greatest greatest start-up assets. Arguably the largest of these is Sage, the accounting behemoth that powers huge swathes of online retail and still holds its headquarters in Newcastle.
The city has an attitude that encourages technology, running over 50 coding clubs that are attended by nearly 3000 people a month at the time of writing.
The economy of Newcastle suffered terribly during the economic downturn, however recent statistics show that the city is powering its way out with over 200 jobs created in the last year from new entrants to the city.
While Bristol appears at number five on the Techbritain list, the city boasts connections to some of the biggest names in technology. These are listed at the end of this section, so I won’t repeat them here, but it is obvious that Bristol (and nearby Bath) have a big part to play in the UK’s tech boom.
Management consulting firm McKinsey & Co recently noted the city as being “globally significant” - an accolade they are sure to live up to. Bristol has always had associations with technology, having a vibrant microelectronics industry and has become the UK base for tech giant HP.
Recently, however, due partly to the development of the Bristol and Bath Science Park and to the SETsquared partnership between the two cities' universities, as well as high speed data connection availability, the region has seen a number of fast growth start-ups emerge.
SETsquared - a partnership between two universities that aims to accelerate business growth, SecondSync - a social media analytics tool recently acquired by Twitter, Brightpearl - a business management tool.
Who is rising up the table?
While the above are seeing significant traction in the tech start-up world, it would be unfair not to include one other that is doing very well and could soon replace any of the above.
Sheffield is home to dot forge accelerator whose alumni are making a big splash in the region and further afield, as well as hosting a number of events aimed at the start-up market in general. MADE: Entrepreneur Festival features a speaker list that any London event would be proud of. Twinned with a growing digital economy and fast rail links to the capital - it’s clear to see why Sheffield is one to watch.
Clarity PR is a technology consultancy that works to grow tech start-ups through strategic media relations campaigns. Will’s role specifically looks at how a start-up positions themselves in the wider market, and how their brand will be received by both consumers and in the media.