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Thursday 13th September 2018

Are you a start-up owner? Are you wondering which UK city will be the best match for you to grow your business?

From the growth potential of the digital economy, to the quality of life. Start-ups need to take it all into consideration when choosing a base for their business.

In this blog we break down some of the best cities in the UK for start-ups based on information taken from the Tech Nation 2018 report.


Over the years Leeds has truly made its mark in the world of digital tech. The city is home to some of the most innovative technology teams in the world, from the likes of Sky Betting and Gaming to NHS Digital and Rockstar Games all having a base here!

Sky Betting and Gaming has continued to invest in the area, creating 230 more jobs in 2017/18. The firm is one of two Yorkshire-based tech firms classed as unicorns, (companies assessed as having a value in excess of $1 billion).

The average salary for digital tech professionals in Leeds is £50,041. This combined with quality of life and the growth of the digital economy are just some of the reasons tech professionals enjoy being based here.

What makes it a great place for start-ups?
Between the years of 2011 and 2015 314 start-ups were born in Leeds, with 168 since 2016. There are a number of things that start-ups have cited as reasons as to why they enjoy being based here.

Melissa Hendry is Operations Director at ZiMovi and VST Enterprises (both growing start-ups in the North). In a recent Q&A with us she said “Leeds has an incredibly thriving tech scene and most importantly community. There is an amazing number of inspiring and educational, free events held each week in the city, which is incredible. Assisting people to widen their connections, learn from their peers and trailblazing companies and offer environments to forge collaborations is vital. 

You only need to look at the incredible work of the Leeds Digital Festival, where the city came together for two weeks to put on over 150 events covering a multitude of topics, demonstrations of ground-breaking technology and showcasing diversity!”

Omair Vaiyani, CTO and Co-founder of Leeds based start-up, Synap, says “Leeds has a thriving digital tech scene - being based here gives us great access to the universities, and to thousands of talented graduates looking to work in an innovative start-up.”

Bristol & Bath 

Bristol and Bath are fast becoming some of the most vibrant tech clusters in the UK. With just 13 miles between the two cities, collectively as a cluster, they have become one of the most popular and attractive destinations for tech professionals and start-ups.

Bristol and Bath has been a popular growth spot in areas such as Aerospace, with Bristol being home to Airbus. As well as being the birth place of Graphcore, the world’s leading, Silicon Valley backed, Machine Learning and AI chip designers.

Tech professionals have cited high salaries (average tech salary £47,000) quality of life and the supportive nature of the digital tech community, as just some of the reasons they like being based in Bristol and Bath.

What makes it a great place for start-ups?
“Investment is the buzzword in this deep-rooted digital tech cluster, with game-changing funding flooding in for specific companies and citywide initiatives alike. Mix this with a good quality of life, a heritage in engineering and excellent academic institutions and Bristol is the perfect place to start and grow a digital business.” (Tech Nation 2018)

Tom Carter CTO/ Co founder at Ultrahaptics says “Being based in Bristol we have access to a large pool of leading digital tech talent.”

Bristol and Bath are home to two of the most prestigious red brick universities in the country, both ranking within the top 15 universities in the country. Because of this, start-ups based in the cities have access to a rich talent pool of some of the best grad talent.

Silas Adekunle CEO & Co-founder of Reach Robotics says: “Bristol has also been long established as a science and tech hub. The city has allowed us to grow and flourish in our early years and continue to acquire the high calibre talent we need to expand further. Innovation is right on our doorstep, with two universities, allowing us to infuse brand new ways of thinking into our revolutionary products and ideas.”

88% of start-up owners see the growth potential of the tech sector in Bristol and Bath as a pull factor to continue to base themselves there. 

We mentioned earlier that tech professionals liked the supportive nature of digital community in the area. There is a growing number of collaborative work spaces geared towards small businesses popping up in Bristol & Bath, following the suit of many successful one’s such as Engine Shed and Bath Road studios. Along with this the cities host regular tech meet-ups and events including Bath Digital Festival, which saw over 2500 attendees last year with over 80 events!


Cambridge has been recognised as a hotbed of activity for AI and Machine Learning.

Despite being a smaller city compared to others in this blog, Cambridge is not short of tech success stories. Acorn Computers was founded there in 1978. Solexa in 1997, Swiftkey 2008, Raspberry Pi in 2012 and Darktrace in 2013.

168 Digital Tech businesses were born in Cambridge in 2017 alone. The digital tech turn over for the Digital Tech sector in Cambridge last year was £2.4 billion!

What makes it a great place for start-ups?
Start-ups cite the access to talent, the proximity to the University and the appeal of the area as pull factors when deciding on Cambridge being a base for their business.

The University of Cambridge is recognised as being the best university in the UK! Because of this, the quality of graduates looking for work in the digital tech sector is of a high standard, giving start-ups access to only the best talent!

Dr Steve Marsh, CEO and Founder of GeoSpock says “It’s only natural that we GeoSpock kept our global headquarters near the source of world-class technical talent coming out of the University, and with Cambridge’s long history of DeepTech innovation coupled with the incredibly supportive entrepreneurial network – there are few ecosystems more suited to building the next big thing.”


Edinburgh’s digital sector has grown and strengthened considerably over the last three years. The Scottish city is home to major international companies as well as tech unicorns including Skyscanner and FanDuel.

The Tech scene in the city prides itself on being extremely collaborative. Notable workspaces driving this include Tech Cube, The Melting Pot, Creative Exchange and CodeBase - the UK’s largest tech incubator. 

Over 200 start-ups were born in 2016 alone and in 2017 there were over 38,000 advertised jobs in digital tech!

The city’s universities are furthering the ambition of the city to become the data capital of Europe. With Heriot-Watt University’s new Discovery and Innovation Centre being  focused on computer science and technology which is sure to drive engagement and success in tech based courses.

What makes it a great place for start-ups?
Andrew McGinley, CEO of Care Sourcer says, ”Edinburgh is an amazing city with lots going on. It has a thriving tech ecosystem that attracts some of worlds best talent. We are based in CodeBase, one of the UK’s largest tech incubators, with over 90 companies, which enables quick access to other founders and fosters fantastic peer to peer development.”

Edinburgh also offers a supportive community for start-ups to grow in. It’s home to CivTech, the Scotland-wide initiative, helping startups engage with, and solve, public sector challenges.

When asked ‘Why Edinburgh?’ Julie Grieve, CEO of Criton Apps said “Edinburgh was my first choice because of the talent coming out of the universities and the current pool of tech staff. CodeBase has also been very useful, particularly the network of other tech CEOs where we regularly share knowledge.”


The city brought us the first Modern computer 70 years ago and since then the city has gone from strength to strength in technological advancements.

Manchester these days is making waves in Blockchain tech and E-commerce with global online retailers Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and Missguided all being based in the city!

“The city’s research into computer vision and machine learning is world-leading. The talent pool flooding from its universities is enviable, and its living costs are significantly cheaper than London.” (Tech Nation 2018)

Tech Hubs within the city including Mediacity are attracting tech excellence including ITV and BBC. As well as Manchester Science Partnerships central campus being home to more than 170 companies in Science, healthtech, biotech, digital and creative!

531 digital tech businesses started up in Manchester in 2016. The digital tech sector business turnover was £2.2 billion in 2017 with this number set to increase year on year.

What makes is a great place for start-ups?
Steven Bartlett, CEO of Social Chain in Manchester says, “We feel Manchester has become the epicentre of creativity and disruption in the UK, which has allowed us to recruit the best talent that reflects our business now, and where we want to be in the future.”

Living costs are considerably low in Manchester, meaning that rent for workspace is generally lower as well, cutting overhead costs for businesses.

“Manchester is one of the world’s leading research centres for computer vision and machine learning with a great talent pool coming out of the universities. In addition, costs of living are on average 42% cheaper than those in London. Yet we can get to the capital in just two hours.” David Levine, CEO Digital Bridge.

85% of start-ups in Manchester said that they liked the growth potential of the tech sector in the city, paired with the overall quality of life in Manchester and the strength of the digital economy.
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