The United Kingdom has its sights firmly set on becoming a tech superpower. In fact, the value of the UK tech ecosystem in 2022 was $1tn, placing it third in the world by value and seventeen times larger than ten years ago, with 9% of the UK workforce in digital/tech.
It’s big business. The opportunity for growth here is huge, the UK ranks 4th globally for tech investment at $40.8bn and there are approx. 5 million people working in tech start-ups and scale-ups in the UK.
Plus, culturally, the UK is a nation of early adopters, making it amongst the most attractive investment destinations in Europe and beyond. Figuratively speaking, tech start-ups are knocking at an open door with the UK market.
However, much of the talk around tech in the UK centres on London.
Which begs the question, what about the rest of the UK? Is London the only place to be if you’re a tech start-up or scale-up? Or do other cities in the UK present compelling opportunities for tech founders and investors?
The answer to the latter is a resounding, yes!
There are thriving tech ecosystems throughout the UK. Regional cities, such as Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge have all produced at least two unicorns and are competing on a global scale with Europe’s capitals.
For the purposes of this article, we’ve chosen to focus on Leeds, home of the Leeds Digital Festival, the UK’s second largest of its kind. For those of you who know us well, you will probably already have heard about our annual Tech Growth UK event at London Tech Week, entitled, ‘How to Land and Grow your Tech business in the UK from the people who know what it takes’, in partnership with the Department for Business and Trade, Burges Salmon and JMB Partnership. This year, we decided to take our event to Leeds Digital Festival with the same messages about bringing your tech to the UK but without a specific London vibe.
According to Leeds.gov.uk, Leeds is the UK’s fastest growing city with a £64.6 billion economy, a combined population of 3 million and a workforce of 1.37 million. Over the next ten years, the economy is forecast to grow by 21% with financial and business services set to generate over half of GVA growth over that period.
Turning specifically to tech, over £288m in venture capital investment in 2022 was attracted by the Leeds tech sector and Leeds was the top ranked city in the UK Tech Town Index. Plus, the UK Government’s High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme has recognised Leeds as a world-leader in Artificial Intelligence.
With that in mind, Leeds offers an attractive proposition for start-ups, with The Guardian newspaper spotting this back in June 2022 “The city has gained a reputation for developing the skilled staff and financial muscle needed to fund start-ups and innovation.”
That reputation has seen major employers including the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority opening offices in Leeds, and the UK infrastructure bank choosing Leeds for its headquarters.
Back in 2021, when the Bank of England chose to move London staff to a new hub in Leeds, Andrew Bailey, the Bank’s governor commented: “(we’re looking at)…how we can gain better insights into the country and the people we serve. Having a greater proportion of our workforce located outside London and the south-east will better enable us to support our mission.”
West Yorkshire and Leeds is also incredibly diverse, with over 100 languages spoken in the region. It goes without saying that diversity is good for business, it helps capture an array of viewpoints, makes them more competitive in a global marketplace, and breaks them out of group mentality that can lead to bad decision-making.
So, if you are weighing up where in the UK to headquarter your tech business, rather than just defaulting to London, do your research and consider what is right for you and your business.
Once you have decided on your location, it’s important to think about how you will make an impact and raise the profile of your business once you arrive in the UK. That’s where we come in. We have delivered effective PR and marketing strategies for over one hundred international businesses coming to the UK, helping them to differentiate their proposition and attract attention in the highly competitive UK market.
For tech companies, it’s important to get your message right for the UK (our area of expertise) and then tell your story in a way that is likely to generate awareness and understanding in the UK market, covering everything from successful fundraising, to founder profiling, to new client announcements and case studies.
If you would like to explore any of this support, please do get in touch.
And finally, thanks to the Department for Business and Trade and West Yorkshire Combined Authority/ Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership for the figures used in this article.