U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne have lent their backing to a new study by Tech City UK, called Tech Nation, designed to look at tech clusters around the whole country.
Key findings include:
- 74% of digital companies in the U.K. operate outside London
- Clusters with the “highest average company turnover” operate in Greater Manchester, Belfast, Sheffield, Inner London, and South Wales
- Clusters with the highest density of digital companies (as a proportion of overall companies) are Brighton & Hove, Inner London, Berkshire, Edinburgh, and Cambridge
It also reveals interesting nuggets, such as that tech startups in Liverpool and Bournemouth now exceed London in terms of rate-of-growth.
The report also looks at the digital economy in relation to other industries, noting that 1.5 million people (7.5 percent) of the U.K. workforce operates in the digital realm, with digital job growth predicted to “outperform all other occupation categories” by 2020.
Tech City to Tech Nation
David Cameron first outlined his vision for a so-called Tech City back in 2011, a move that sought to create a cluster of tech firms in East London to rival that of Silicon Valley. A myriad of success stories have emerged from the U.K. capital in recent times, though Tech City’s role in this is very much up for debate.
The original Tech City initiative received its fair share of criticism, with many arguing that it was little more than a souped-up PR company taking credit for the organic growth of the burgeoning startup scene in the Shoreditch area of the city. But many have also argued that it’s simply too London-focused, with countless hubs around the U.K. ignored by government.
The timing of the latest initiative, especially with Cameron & Co. keen to align themselves with it, is notable too. The core purpose of Tech Nation is to point to the economic growth powered by tech clusters outside of London, and concludes that “the exponential growth of digital businesses is a phenomenon reaching far beyond the capital.” In a year that could see the most hotly contested election in a long time, this perhaps partly explains why we’re seeing this renewed focus on the rest of the country.
“Backing the industries of the future is a key part of our long-term economic plan to support business, create more jobs, and build a more resilient economy,” explained Cameron in a statement. “The digital economy has become an integral part of our country, and the rapid growth of many digital businesses has confirmed Britain’s position as a global hub of technology excellence.”
Beyond Tech Nation
London tech firms alone secured a record $1 billion of VC investment in the first nine months of 2014, up almost a third on the whole of 2013 and 1,000 percent on 2010’s figure. This hockey stick-style growth is at least partly explained by the growing number of tech firms that operate in the country, with the Tech Nation report finding that 50 percent of digital companies in the U.K. were formed since 2008.
Derived in part from a survey across 2,000 digital companies and interviews with entrepreneurs, as well as from partners which include DueDil, CareerBuilder, Adzuna, Crunchbase, AngelList, and f6s, Tech Nation does add some value to the knowledge pool, but it should also be looked at in conjunction with other resources. Tech Britain, for example, is another great resource for looking at clusters across the U.K., and it’s interesting to compare the numbers from both.
Tech City UK says it will conduct “regular data analysis and reporting” of the U.K.’s digital economy under the Tech Nation banner. Meanwhile, you can read the full Tech Nation report for yourself here, or view the interactive guide here.
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