Bristol, Leicester, Sunderland, Nottingham and Sheffield were recently revealed as the best cities in the United Kingdom for starting a business. Yet, nowhere comes close to matching London as the UK’s leading tech hub.
A recent study conducted on behalf of electrocomponents company RS Components concluded that London leads the way in emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and data.
The study used a range of factors, such as number of tech events, scientific publications, local skills, business startup rates, and research & development spending, to determine an index score for each of the 36 cities considered.
While London’s place at the top, given its leader status in Europe for things such as tech startups, investment and jobs, may not come as a surprise, the study highlights the huge gap between London and other UK cities.
London’s index score across all technologies stands at 42.1. Scottish capital Edinburgh ranked second, excelling in fields such as artificial intelligence and data analytics. However, it’s index score stands at just 6.3 – which suggests that the city offers tech workers just 15% of what London currently does.
Manchester, Glasgow and Brighton make up the top five with index scores of 4.9, 3.8 and 3.2 respectively.
Where does London lead?
London sits ahead of other UK tech hubs by a big margin for all of the areas of technology that the study looked at. However, the city is pulling ahead particularly in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The city scored 69.9 for AI, compared to 6.4 in Edinburgh and 5.2 in Glasgow.
AI is expected to revolutionise business in the coming years, helping to streamline operations and cut costs. Global business spending on AI reached $219bn in 2018, with more than 70% of US and UK businesses having adopted some form of AI.
Those hoping to capitalise on this disruptive technology will be best placed in London.
Opportunities for other UK cities
The capital also scores highly in the VR category, with index score of 42.1. However, this field also offers some promise for tech workers living outside of leading cities such as London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Brighton.
Cardiff places second in the VR field with a score of 8.4, with Sheffield (5),Oxford (3.7), Birmingham (3.6) and Milton Keynes (3.1) making up the top five.
While it still ranks top, London’s IoT ecosystem is considerably weaker than AI, VR and data. The city scores 21.4. This still puts it ahead of other UK tech hubs by some distance. However, considerable investment in the IoT field could see cities like Edinburgh, Reading and Manchester, which score 7.9, 7.6 and 7 for IoT respectively, catch up.
Brexit: A threat to London’s tech dominance?
While London’s place as the UK’s leading tech hub seems secure, its status as the tech capital of Europe is a little more uncertain with the Brexit deadline looming.
With less than a month to go until the UK is supposed to break away from the European Union, it is still far from clear what the outcome will be and what impact it will have on UK businesses.
“For the tech industry, it remains a huge concern that the UK may lose its position as Europe’s leading hub for technology talent post-Brexit,” Robbie Clutton, Senior Director at Pivotal Labs, previously told Verdict.
The biggest concern is attracting talent from overseas. Despite being home to a large proportion of the UK’s tech companies, these businesses still rely on attracting talent from elsewhere to fill the growing number of tech positions.
Despite that, a recent study published by Emsi and education charity EDT concluded that, despite Brexit, London’s technology dominance is only set to grow in the coming years, fuelled by talent developed elsewhere in the UK.
The study found that the tech industry is set to provide the more job growth over the next five years, with most of those roles likely to be based in and around London.
That is bad news for businesses based outside of London. With accessing talent from Europe expected to become more complicated, skilled workers from around the UK will likely be pulled to London to fill the growing number of roles, which will inevitably see the city strengthen its place as the leading UK tech hub further.
“If London and South East continue to dominate in tech, then we can expect to continue to see the brightest and best of our young people head to those regions for employment, rather than staying to fuel the economy in their region of origin,” said Julie Feest, CEO of EDT.