Forget London -- These 4 U.K. Tech Hubs Are Booming Though many choose to start businesses in the capital, these cities shouldn't be overlooked.

By Daniel Saunders

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With London boasting over 660,000 startups, and an all-time high of £2.99 billion in investment last year, the city has earned its mark as one of most innovative places to set up a startup in Europe. It's estimated 75 new companies launch every hour in the U.K. and with so many people trying their luck in London, the capital is a tough nut to crack for many young startups that can't afford the cost of business in London.

Related: Why London's Tech Community Is Thriving, Despite Brexit

Brexit made it clear that there is still a high degree of disparity between London and other major cities in the U.K. Working with startups distributed outside London will help close this gap by creating deeper relationships and ultimately more tangible results in tech hubs outside London.

Leeds and Manchester are recognized as international hubs for financial and professional services. It's now time to link the great strengths each of our cities share to boost the sector across the country.

There are areas across the U.K. that are thriving on the wealth of talent and money available up and down the country. If London dominates England, there are key hubs in the North with Manchester and Leeds, the South with Brighton and the West with Bristol.

The North

The North of England has always boasted a proud innovation heritage, the locomotive train and hydroelectric power to name a few. Recently, northern cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds looking to drive forward the technology of tomorrow have been flying the flag for the North, and there has been significant investment into revitalizing the "Northern Powerhouse" and mobilizing the inventive talent available.


Manchester is rapidly claiming itself as the U.K.'s second capital and is especially pushing its tech prowess; the city had £2.8 billion in digital Gross Added Value (GVA) last year. With initiatives like Project Forward and Manchester City Council awarding two £2-million grants to establish tech hubs, it is justifying being in the top 20 European Digital City Index.

This support for young startups is coupled with the city housing over 170 companies in life sciences, biotech, digital and creative sectors as well as being the hub for MediaCityUK, home to the BBC and ITV. This year, the Tech Manchester initiative stated it is dedicated to supporting the development of early stage technology businesses. The region's startups are set to benefit from subsidized space with zero business rates, while plugging into Tech Manchester's network of mentors.


After Edinburgh, Leeds recently ranked by a Royal Mail study as one of the best U.K. cities to live and work in and earned praised for its access to healthcare, average earnings and job opportunities. Leeds is nipping at Manchester's heels and developing a strong culture of gaming innovation with global superstar Rockstar Games founded in Leeds in 1997. With companies like Sky Betting & Gaming and NHS Digital based there, as well as the 314 startups born in the city, Leeds is proving an attraction for entrepreneurs across the North. Particularly strong is its digital marketing sector -- with the city boosting five out of the top 10 digital agencies in the whole of North of England, including twentysix, Epiphany and Branded3.

Related: U.K. Startups, Take Heart: If You Can Make It Here, You Can Make It Anywhere

The South


Barely an hour train journey from London this seaside town has long been a diverse, creative and cultural mecca in the south of England.

For many years Brighton has been pulling in the top creative talent to exciting media and design agencies, and in recent years this has drawn tech talent innovating the latest digital creative solutions. Brighton's creative industry economy is estimated to be worth £1 billion and includes traditional media and design solutions but also a growing gaming scene. The Brighton Games Collective fosters traditional and app-based gaming companies. According to TechCity UK, the city has created 12,614 digital jobs and has birthed 218 startups.

Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Brighton claim top ranks with their academic institutions. Brighton holds many features to make it an attractive location for burgeoning U.K. startups including its annual digital festival. The month-long Brighton Digital Festival celebrates the richness of the creative and cultural industries in our city and explores the ways in which digital technology continues to shape our lives and our thinking.

Related: The Most Common Words U.K. Companies Use for Their Business Names (Infographic)

The West


It might be known for having its own currency and a music scene to die for, but Bristol is readily becoming the nation's newest hub for innovative tech.

Any city that can envisage druids regularly wandering the streets can claim to be tapped into some creative spirits. Often these eccentricities are channeled into robotic and technological innovation. Bristol is home to U.K. sites for nine of the 12 largest aerospace companies in the U.K. including BAE Systems and Airbus as well as HP Labs and Aardman Animations. The city can claim a real draw for tech and engineering talent.

Bristol University graduates over 3,000 engineers each year and the Bristol-based University of the West of England is home to a pioneering robotics lab; these large corporates are well fed with young talent. This combined with the nearby GCHQ and Dyson bases all less than an hour away creates a real inventive spirit surrounding the city.

So, despite living in uncertain times pre-Brexit and a decade after the recession, it's heartening to see that outside the capital businesses and entrepreneurs are thriving. Fully taking advantage of global connectivity, technology, education and the change in the way we work as humans, while not forgetting that there's no place like home, despite the shining city lights.

Daniel Saunders

Chief Executive, L Marks

Daniel Saunders is a technologist-turned-investor and leading adviser in applied innovation. As CEO of L Marks, he has created the U.K.’s largest network of corporate accelerators and launched more than 50 innovation labs globally.

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