The ‘Data City’ that provided the UK with the first Internet Service Provider is moving from strength to strength when it comes to tech talent.
Leeds sits at the heart of the UK’s digital industry and sixteen years after Freeserve was founded, the city’s tech scene thrives once more.
Currently, as one of the major cities that make up the Northern Powerhouse, Leeds is home to over 8,500 digital organisations, employing a total of approximately 70,000 individuals, according to Leeds Open Data Institute (ODILeeds).
Businesses such as KMPG, Asda and CallCredit all base their digital operations in the city. More specifically, Sky and SkyBet locates its offices in the centre of Leeds and is one of three Yorkshire tech firms valued at $1 billion (£82 million).
And it’s easy to see why these big companies are choosing the city to work in. Leeds is in the top 5 digital clusters in the UK and has a variety of expertise in a number of sectors including digital advertising, healthcare, fintech, ecommerce and app and software development.
Since 1979, automotive tech and data company Cap HPO has housed its global tech hub in the city, claiming that their choice is down to the availability of data and digital skills in the area and surrounding region.
According to Tom Forth, an associate at ODILeeds, Leeds is the best city for open data for reasons such as its extensive datasets provided by Leeds City Council and its private-sector led digital apprenticeship scheme.
Further to this, Stuart Clarke, who is behind the Leeds Digital Festival, commented: "Success breeds success, and Leeds is a better place for startups and companies now than even three years ago.
"We have more data scientists in Leeds than anywhere outside of London – you could call us the 'Data City' there is so much talent."
Yet despite this, like in many sectors, major success brings challenges and according to the 2016 Tech Nation Report, the main issues facing the city’s digital sector include limited access to finance and low sector awareness.
Such a lack of acknowledgement has led to the production of a recent film called ‘The City Talking: Tech in Leeds’ which shouts about the evolution of Leeds’ digital scene.
Created by local media company Hebe Works, they claim that their main motivation for making the film was the limited amount of recognition the city has for its digital performance.
"We found that amazing innovation is happening in Leeds, but we have not been good enough at telling our stories to the rest of the world,” explained Lee Hicken, creative director at Hebe Works.
"We do fantastic things and feel that we shouldn't be shouting about them, but it's about time we did.”
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