Growing business hubs in the British Isles



London has a long-standing reputation for being the place to be in business. Whether you’re in the arts industry, or work in finance, tech or hospitality, it’s often considered to be the heart of everything - something that can be extremely beneficial for new startups. Some might even say that London’s success has had a knock-on effect on the success of other cities across the British Isles, thanks in part to their connectivity to the capital. In fact, cities all over the British Isles are fast-becoming just as fruitful for startups to set up their business or expand. Here, we take a look at the locations popular with startups and why.

Business Hubs in The North of England

The North of England is fast becoming known for its growing tech industry. Here, you’ve got a thriving digital hub in locations like Leeds and Sheffield, and MediaCity in Manchester is home to the northern locations of businesses like the BBC and ITV.

Growing Industries in the North of England

Leeds: Digital, technology, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, construction, and third sector.

Manchester: Research, manufacturing, life sciences, engineering, media, technology

Sheffield: Arts, music, culture, digital, and technology.

Bradford: Finance, professional services, legal, manufacturing, engineering, and digital.

Liverpool: Digital, manufacturing, finance, health, energy, maritime and logistics and tourism.


Why Set Up in the North?

Schemes such as the government-backed Northern Powerhouse initiative are contributing to the success of businesses in the north. The movement is all about making sure the environment businesses need to thrive in is put in place, whether that’s through providing the right transport, handing the decision-making power to those who live and breathe business in the north every day or supporting key industries through investment.

You can see the effects this project is having already, thanks to changes such as investment in schools and colleges, and the introduction of smart ticketing at train stations, superfast broadband, investment in health science and teaching hospitals as well as facilitating research activities between top universities in the North.

You can read more about Northern Powerhouse plans here.


Growing Business in the North

According to the Office for National Statistics, the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber combined had an estimated total of around 80,000 new business births in 2017. In 2016, ONS data tells us that cities such as Carlisle and York made the top five list of UK cities with the highest five-year startup survival rate, at 50.8% and 50% respectively.

Prominent start-ups based in the North include the tech firms DueCourse, SwapBots and Ash.Tv.

Growing Cities in Scotland

Scotland is home to many thriving industries. From its traditional roots as a bustling location for fishing and oil, it’s since developed and expanded into the life sciences, FinTech and creative industries, welcoming a breadth of sectors.

Growing Industries in Scotland

Aberdeen: Electronics, agricultural research, fishing, and oil.

Glasgow: Digital technology, finance, creative, life sciences, engineering, tourism and further education.

Edinburgh: Finance, technology, life sciences, tourism, retail

Inverness: Tourism, retail, construction, public administration, IT, forestry, agriculture and fishing.



Why do business in Scotland?

Scotland’s reputation as a home to entrepreneurial businesses is well established. Pete Cashmore’s Mashable was founded in Aberdeen, tech company Rockstar North was created in Dundee and now has headquarters in Edinburgh, long-distance coach company Megabus began in Perth and travel fare aggregator Skyscanner is also based in Edinburgh.

There’s plenty of Government help available if you’re starting a new business in Scotland too. Gov.scot has a wealth of resources, such as information on where you can get financial assistance, how the Government is working towards making business regulation more accessible here and help in areas such as digital technologies and social enterprises.

There are also other opportunities to gather funding for start-ups in Scotland, thanks to initiatives such as the Scottish Microfinance Fund and the SMART: SCOTLAND fund for SMEs focussing on technological innovation and development in Scotland.  


Notable Businesses in Scotland

According to ONS data, in 2016 Aberdeen had the best five-year survival rate for new businesses in the whole of the UK, at 53.5%.

Prominent start-ups based in Scotland include: learning materials provider Twig, games developer 4J Studios and food and beverage subscription service, Flavourly.

The Midlands’ Best Places for Businesses

The Midlands is known mainly for its manufacturing and engineering industry thanks to it being the home of branches of huge brands such as Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and JCB.

Growing Industries in the Midlands

Birmingham: Finance, education, health, defence, social work, transport, construction, and retail.

Stoke-on-Trent: Ceramics, tourism, retail, healthcare, and manufacturing.

Derby: Manufacturing, engineering, rail, aerospace, automotive, materials, creative, and food and drink.

Nottingham: Manufacturing, transport, and food and drink.

Leicester: Manufacturing, finance, engineering, life sciences and digital


Why the Midlands is Good for Business

One of the main factors that draws business to The Midlands is the fact that it’s really easy to access the rest of the country from here. Being centrally located, you can get to London by train in less than 1.5 hours, and up to Edinburgh in less than four hours.

As well as its accessibility, there are plenty of investment schemes for businesses in The Midlands. PWC's Scale Midlands programme and East Midlands and South East Midlands-based First Enterprise provide advice and support for new start-ups based in this area. There are also more localised organisations for start-ups like Growing Nottingham, which offers networking opportunities, advice and support.


Which Companies are Growing in the Midlands?

According to ONS data, in 2016 both Birmingham and Leicester appeared in the top 15 list of cities with the highest volume of new businesses in the UK, with 5,500 and 1,575 respectively. As well as this, according to the latest Barclays and BGF Entrepreneurs Index Report, The Midlands has the highest proportion of companies in the UK that are considered “high-growth”.

Prominent start-ups in The Midlands include: subscription service Buckt, IT security company brokenStones and food waste reduction service Whisk.


Growing Technology Hubs in Ireland

Ireland is widely known for its agriculture, beverages and machinery industries, but has seen recent development in areas such as FinTech, MedTech, e-commerce and more.

Growing Industries in Ireland

Cork: Entrepreneurship, innovation, and tourism.

Dublin: Digital, creative, finance, and tourism.


Why Base your Business in Ireland?

Among the business community, Ireland has a growing reputation for being an attractive location for start-ups. Geographically, it allows access to both Europe and the US - you can be in London by plane in just over an hour, and New York in just under eight.

Ireland also has many schemes that make the process of setting up your own business that little bit easier. Startup Ireland, for example, aims to assist by helping provide access to the right talent, the right finance and business support, and the right environment for start-ups and scale ups to thrive in.

Organisations such as Enterprise Ireland also exist to put entrepreneurs in touch with the right funding to help them find success.


Growing Businesses in Ireland

Prominent start-ups based in Ireland include the tech company LogoGrab, MedTech company Nova Leah and FinTech company Payslip.

Business growth in the South West

The South West of England is fast-becoming a hub for creative industries in the south, so much so that areas within it such as Dorset have been dubbed the “Silicon South”.

Growing Industries in the South West

Bristol: Creative, technology, manufacturing, tourism, media, finance

Dorset: Finance, agri-tech, creative, environment, engineering and manufacturing



Why is the South West good for business?

As well as being in close proximity to some of the UK’s biggest cities such as Birmingham and Cardiff, the South West is also near London, and close to some of the UK’s biggest airports – it also has its own airports – Bristol and Bournemouth, which makes travelling further afield much more accessible to businesses based here.

Alongside this, there are a range of services available to businesses in the South West thanks to an organisation called Business West. According to Business West, the South West is one of the most entrepreneurial areas in the UK, and as such, the organisation offers grants, advice and financial support for all manner of startups.


Notable businesses in the South West

The South West is home to organisations such as Airbus and New Look. You’ll also find notable startups based here, such as technology company Ultrahaptics, and software company YellowDog.  

Innovation in Wales

The creative industries, life sciences and energy are three of the biggest sectors that are thriving in Wales, but the country is also something of a hotbed for startups it seems, even having its own awards ceremony specifically for young, new businesses.

Growing Industries in Wales

Cardiff: Retail, finance, tourism, media

Swansea: Manufacturing, service sector, council and government, education


Why is Wales good for startups?

Wales has plenty to offer new businesses. As well as a culture of celebration and acknowledgement of how important new business is for the country’s economy as a whole, as referenced by their startup awards, Wales offers a wealth of resources. From assistance with managing finances, to information and support when it comes to building your team, Business Wales can help to set startups on the right track for success.


Notable startups in Wales

There are a huge variety of startups already thriving in Wales. A selection includes oral hygiene subscription service company Brushbox, female operated and run removals and courier service She Moves, and education technology company, Aspire2Be.

East of England

Growing Industries in the East of England

Norwich: Creative, digital, technology, research, aviation, tourism,

Cambridge: Bio-technology, manufacturing, environment, food industries



Why is the East of England good for startups?

One of the most notable benefits for startups in this area is the location. The southern section of the East of England is a popular location for commuters into London, while the northern region offers beautiful landscapes and Areas of Outstanding Beauty, the coast, and facilities such as the University of East Anglia - it’s an area that boasts the benefit of balance.

The government also runs several schemes to help businesses set up here, particularly those with the aim to reduce carbon emissions. Gov.uk has more information on the types of assistance they offer to businesses in the South East of England here and here, and more northern parts of the East of England here.


Notable organisations in the East of England

Already thriving in the East of England, you’ll find organisations such as SyncNorwich based here. SyncNorwich is a community dedicated to connecting tech startups in the area, helping them to thrive and ultimately boost the economy.

You’ll also find charitable organisations such as the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the East, who work to help make coding more accessible to a wider audience.

If you’re a startup owner or are looking for a space to scale up your business, turn to Workthere. We can help you find the best environment for your business, whether that’s in the heart of a bustling city, or something a little more bespoke to your requirements. Take a look at our handy on site guides and get in touch with our team today.


You can view all of the sources used here.