When considering where to start or move a tech business in the United Kingdom, you might initially struggle to look past London. After all, the turnover of the capital’s digital tech businesses reached £64.1bn in 2017, says The Guardian – making London the UK’s leading cluster on this measure.
However, there is increasingly good reason to believe that the UK’s next tech titan could emerge instead from a northern city like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds or Newcastle.
The north of England has attracted significant investment
Did you know that investment in the UK’s northern tech sector grew at a 619% rate between 2012 and 2017 – faster than any other European area, as Entrepreneur reports?
Much of the north’s success in drawing investment can be attributed to Chinese investors, who have flocked to such hubs as Manchester and Sheffield in their droves to spur regeneration projects. Government-backed initiatives like the Digital Enterprise scheme could help their efforts.
Commercial property up north represents impressive value for money
As London commercial property rents have skyrocketed by 70% between 2011 and 2015, it’s no wonder that many tech firms could be increasingly hard-pressed to keep paying the charges.
In the City of London, the average cost of office space per square foot has reached an eye-watering £68.50; however, for the same amount of office space in Leeds, you would pay just £30. Therefore, a firm operating in a 10,000-square-foot office could save more than £400,000.
Talent isn’t hard to find
The north of England is home to over 25 universities, including some of Europe’s leading learning institutions – and easily more than half of graduates stay in their university city post-graduation. They have good incentive to do so, too, given the south of England’s extortionate house prices.
Andy Cooper, co-founder of Liverpool-based tech studio Draw & Code, explained to The Guardian: “If you’re young and you’re in your 20s and in London, then it’s a great place to be, but you can’t save any money when you want to start a family, so what do you do then?”
Internet connectivity is strong
Whereas most people in several London areas contend with broadband slower than the UK’s national average of 17 Mbps, many northern English cities are accustomed to future-proof, full-fibre infrastructure enabling them to benefit from broadband speeds reaching 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps).
Notable providers of such enterprise-friendly connectivity include The Loop, which provides dark fibre in Salford and various other Greater Manchester communities.
It’s easier to collaborate with other businesses
Whereas the behemoth of London can feel bewildering to fully comprehend, the north is resplendent in smaller, scattered towns and cities, fostering a community feel that can make it easier for northern tech firms to forge collaborations between each other.
As service designer Vimla Appadoo of FutureGov has commented: “You get to understand what’s going on across the region. London is too big to get under the skin of that.” No northern startup or founder might escape your notice when you are a local tech pioneer.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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