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Why Birmingham has the potential to become the UK's prime tech hub 28 November 2016

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Certain cities can take time to find their identity in the modern world of business. Whether it's Manchester and its growing penchant for media companies in its expansion and regeneration of recent years, or the marketing and digital revolution that has helped Leeds to come into its own as a commercial location, cities across the country are slowly starting to carve out their own niches in the business world, and gain themselves strong identities in the process. Developing such an identity comes from a number of different factors, be it the skills and demographics available or the quality and type of office space on offer, and it is these, along with other elements, that are helping Britain's second largest city come into its own in one of the most competitive and exciting industries in the modern world.

Already a burgeoning hub for the tech industry thanks to growth over the past few years, Birmingham is starting to prove that it has the ability to continue to attract companies working in this industry for years to come, potentially becoming the UK's prime tech hub in the future.

The tech industry in the UK

Tech is one of the fastest growing industries in the UK at present. According to Tech City UK's Tech Nation 2016 report, job creation in the digital tech industry is growing as much as 32 per cent faster than any other industry in the UK, and already accounts for more than 1.56 million jobs nationwide.

In an increasingly digital world, it's hardly a surprise that tech companies are growing in size faster than any other in the UK, and it's cities, like Birmingham, that are well poised to take advantage of this as they appear to have a ready-made workforce, that can shine and position themselves at the forefront of the UK's tech hub.

Birmingham's tech industry

The potential that Birmingham has as a tech hub largely stems from the fact that it has been well positioned in recent years to make the most of the industry's growth in general. With more than 40,000 people already operating in digital jobs in Birmingham across 6,000 companies, it's clear that the city has never been far behind when it comes to embracing modern sectors.

Political leaders and the education industry alike have also been coming together to ensure that the city has the tools to realise its potential, whether it's through fantastic office spaces, the right infrastructure, or funding to incentivise companies to operate there.

For example, Innovation Birmingham, Alta Innovations and the University of Birmingham have been teaming up in recent years to provide mentoring and support that helps smaller firms to grow their tech businesses and expand, encouraging them to collaborate with, and work in, an established tech industry within the city.

The European Union has also provided funding designed to incentivise companies to take advantage of Birmingham's potential, committing £2 million to back entrepreneurs and startups in the city.

Demographic

One of the biggest advantages that Birmingham has over other cities in terms of becoming a tech hub for the whole of the UK is that it has the highest proportion of younger people of any city in the UK, and this is the most likely group to be skilled and looking for tech industry roles.

In the last few years, young professionals hit hard by a rising cost of living in the capital have started to move away from trendy areas such as Shoreditch in London, and Birmingham has without a doubt been the biggest beneficiary of this.

According to Spicatech, 40 per cent of the population of Birmingham is now aged 25 or under, which officially makes it the youngest city in the whole of Europe. This is largely due to the fact that it boasts rents 60 per cent lower than in London, which is one of the biggest reasons for migration away from the capital.

This, along with the report from Indeed that states wages in the city go twice as far as those in London, is helping Birmingham to attract a higher number of young skilled people to live in the city, bringing with them a digital prowess and skillset that could attract more fledgling businesses than ever to set up shop and start operations in Birmingham's tech scene.

Head of Birmingham, Rob Valentine said: "It’s well documented that there are some great developments being built in Birmingham city centre which are ideal for larger, corporate businesses. We now need to make sure that we are also accommodating the need for affordable, flexible and creative workspaces, creating the right spaces for these emerging digital start-ups.

“Birmingham is a fantastic place to be, especially for young workers that are moving to the city from London. You can afford to live and enjoy yourself in this city, which is without a doubt an important consideration."

With clear backing from politicians, educators and industry experts, as well as a strong attraction for skilled youngsters and a ready-made workforce, it's clear that what has already started to take off in Birmingham could soon see it become one of the major tech hubs anywhere in the UK.

 

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Birmingham cityscape
Birmingham cityscape