9 top UK cities for tech workers

9 top UK cities for tech workers

Many factors make a city an attractive place in which to work and live: goodcolleges and universities, reliable public transport systems, qualityaccommodations and cultural amenities — not to mention large companies thatpay large salaries.The UK has long been home to a thriving tech sector, with tech’s gross valueadd to the UK economy growing an average of 7% per year since 2016. The techstartup and scale-up ecosystem is currently valued at $585 billion — 120% morethan in 2017, and more than double the next in line, Germany.Businesses are bullish on tech. A study from the Learning and Work institutein March found that 60% of those surveyed expect their reliance on advanceddigital skills will increase over the next five years, according to TheGuardian, although less than half of UK employers thought new entrants to theworkforce had the advanced digital skillsets needed.For those already in the industry, or thinking of starting a tech career,we’ve compiled a list of the top cities in the UK for tech workers, based onthe number of tech jobs available, featured companies and startups, and salarydata from Totaljobs.


With billions of pounds worth of government funding dedicated to the so-calledGolden Triangle, which includes Cambridge, Oxford and London, Cambridge hassuccessfully built a reputation as being the home of a burgeoning life sciencetech scene.Cambridge has long been popular amongst startups, and the number of techcompanies moving into the area is still on the rise. Many of these are headedby ex-students, though many more set up in Cambridge having traveled fromacross the world, hoping to take advantage of the city’s world-famousuniversity and its network of angel investors.According to Tech Nation’s 2021 report, Cambridge-based companies received$5.3 billion worth of investment in 2020, placing it eighth in the world andsecond only to London for UK investment.Despite its reputation as a startup hub, a number of established companieshave also set up camp. Apple has an AI outpost, while Microsoft set up a majorresearch lab. And Amazon used the city to test out Prime Air.Tech sub sectors: Artificial intelligence, deep learning, life science andgamingCompanies: Raspberry Pi, Darktrace, FiveAI, Arm and Frontier DevelopmentsAverage tech/digital salary: £57,500

Reading and The Thames Valley

A university town in the south of England, Reading is home to more than justthe eponymous festival. Tech Nation’s 2018 report found that Reading’s techcompany density is approximately seven times higher than the national average,while a survey of tech companies conducted by The Data City in 2019 foundReading was the third best tech hub for businesses in the UK after London andManchester.A number of high-profile companies have opened major offices in recent yearsReading, which has access to central London, Heathrow Airport — and a wealthof students all vying for jobs. Reading isn’t in the same league as Cambridgewhen it comes to the start-up scene; it tends to be favoured by long-standing,established companies. But it can offer workers lower living costs thanLondon.Tech sub sectors: Research & development, softwareCompanies: Microsoft, Oracle, Huawei, Cisco Systems and SymantecAverage tech/digital salary: £42,500


According to Tech Nation’s 2020 Jobs and Skills report, in 2019 19% of alladvertised jobs in London (around 658,275 listings) were for digital ortechnology roles.London is not just the most popular city in Britain for tech talent, but forthe whole of Europe, boasting more than 40,000 tech companies in the innercity alone — and more software developers than either San Francisco or NewYork. In 2018, London was the most popular city in Europe for technologyworkers migrating from overseas, according to London & Partners.The city also has excellent support for tech entrepreneurs based on volume ofincubators, co-working spaces and meetups, and access to angel investornetworks.Across the UK, private tech companies raised £380m through first-time fundingrounds in 2020, £196m of which went into London. Of the 276 tech startups thatraised equity finance for the first-time last year, 141 were London-basedcompanies. And 41 of these companies raised over £1m. The Capital’s technologyhub (East London Tech City) has even been dubbed Silicon Roundabout.Tech sub sectors: Fintech, eCommerceCompanies: Transferwise, Shazam, Amazon, GoogleAverage tech/digital salary: £62,500


Manchester has overcome a serious post-industrial downturns to emerge as atech hub. The city has a number of innovative accelerators, includingAccelerateME, a student run accelerator programme from ManchesterEntrepreneurs, the student society of The University of Manchester.Over the past decade, initiatives such as Tech North, Manchester Digital,Manchester Tech Trust, and the Manchester Growth Company have helped toimprove the resources and opportunities available to the tech and digitalsectors across the city. As a result, Manchester attracted $70.6 billion intech investments in 2020.It’s also home to MediaCityUK, which encompasses BBC, ITV, Ericsson, andKellog’s, and in 2020 Manchester was labeled the fastest-growing tech city inEurope. It was also the top choice outside of London for job-huntingtechnology workers.Tech sub sectors: eCommerce, healthtech, biotechCompanies: The Hut Group, AO.com, AutoTraderAverage tech/digital salary: £47,500


Scotland’s capital is not only one of the country’s most prominent financialcentres, for the past five years it’s also been the base of the largest techincubator in the UK — Codebase, home to more than 90 companies that havecollectively raised more than half a billion dollars in investment.The tech community in Edinburgh has been expanding rapidly with developers andengineers now accounting for 7% of the city’s workforce. The city also boastsa number of top educational institutes, including the University of Edinburghand Edinburgh Napier University and more than 160 research institutions.A 2020 report from Active Capital that ranked 288 major cities globally (basedon a range of variables, including the strength of research outputs, economicprosperity and quality of life) named Edinburgh as one of the most innovativecities in the world. According to the report, Edinburgh places fourth overallin the UK, behind London, Cambridge and Oxford.Tech sub sectors: Fintech, gamingCompanies: Skyscanner, FanDuelAverage tech/digital salary: £57,500


In 2019, Leeds’ digital sector reportedly contributed £6.6 billion to the CityRegion economy and employed 102,000 people, seeing the fastest scale up growthin the North. More than 11,300 IT jobs were posted in the Leeds work areabetween September 2019 and August 2020, with the Yorkshire-based cityattracting $44.6 billion of investment during that same period.For two weeks each year, Leeds plays host to more digital events than SanFrancisco, with technologists flocking to the city for a series of events andworkshops as part of the Leeds Digital Festival. In 2018, the festival hosted170 events across 68 locations across the city. This year’s event begins Sept.20.Moreover, the cost of living in Leeds is low. Housing is cheaper than in manyother parts of the UK, and with wages in the city’s tech sector not far fromwhat workers in London earn, the result is more disposable income for techemployees.Tech sub sectors: Healthtech and medtechCompanies: NHS Digital, Pharmacy2UAverage tech/digital salary: £52,500


The Northern Irish capital of Belfast has established itself as a world leaderfor technology and has become a thriving tech hub over the last decade. In2017, digital tech businesses generated more than £875 million in revenue andthere are now more than 1,200 tech firms in the city.Due to its younger population of digital natives, as well as its proximity totop universities such as University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast,the city is winning plaudits for its efforts. According to fDi Intelligence, aspecialist division from the Financial Times, Belfast was ranked ninth in theinaugural top 10 “Tech Cities of the Future” for 2020/2021, ranking aboverivals such as Frankfurt and Zurich.Tech sub sectors: Cybersecurity, data analytics, telecoms and mobileCompanies: Proofpoint, Rapid7, Analytics EnginesAverage tech/digital salary: £57,500Just 43 tech firms have listed in London in the last 20 yearsJust 43 of the UK’s fastest-growing tech firms have floated on the LondonStock Exchange in the last twenty years, according to new research.New research by accountancy firm BDO shows that of the UK’s 1,200 fastestgrowing tech startups fewer than four per cent have listed in London.Even with blockbuster IPOs lined up for this year including Deliveroo andDarktrace, it indicates the extent of the work needed to convince promisingstartups to list in London.“If you believe that listing fast-growing tech companies on the stock marketis an important part of helping to deliver economic growth, then the UK ismissing out,” BDO’s of technology and media Tony Spillet said.“UK investors are currently only able to access many tech businessesindirectly through private equity funds, a route which is not open to many.”Investment in tech firms hit a record high last year as VC and private equityfirms piled into companies that benefited from the pandemic. It means techcompanies are staying private for longer and in some cases shunning the publicmarkets entirely.For others they are looking to the US Nasdaq index where the regulatoryrequirements are looser than in London, which prompted a review into therules.“For London to compete on the world stage and confirm its position as aglobally competitive tech hub, we need to see more tech companies choosing tolist in the UK,” Russ Shaw CBE, founder of Tech London Advocates and GlobalTech Advocates said.The Lord Hill review, published last month, set out recommendations toencourage companies to list in London including the introduction of dual classshare structures.“The Lord Hill review is a roadmap for how we establish the London StockExchange as an attractive market for tech entrepreneurs and now is the time toensure we have a robust and attractive public listing pathway for our techcommunity,” Shaw added.While work needs to be done, Stephen Kelly, chair of Tech Nation, considers2020 a turning point for London listings.Eight UK tech companies have floated on the LSE last year, raising a total of£3.1bn, with 40 per cent of all capital raised falling within the tech sector.We continue to expect homegrown IPOs to gather pace as we enter a ‘golden age’for UK tech. With 80 unicorns, the UK now has the best pipeline for IPOs inEurope, more than Germany and France combined,” Kelly said.UK regions come to the fore in producing $1bn tech companiesThe UK’s leading tech clusters are competing head-to-head with Europeancapitals, according to new analysis of company growth, in a sign that thesuccess of the UK tech sector is pushing far beyond its London heartland. * The UK’s regional cities are competing head-to-head with Europe’s biggest capitals * The UK has created 35% of all unicorns from Europe and Israel (60 out of 169) * Oxbridge beats Paris and Berlin creating nine unicorns, compared with Paris’s five and Berlin’s eight * World-leading academic institutions are helping to create pioneering new tech companies in Oxford, Cambridge and other university cities * Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Edinburgh and Leeds have all produced at least two unicorns, while London has produced 36 * Manchester has produced five unicorns, putting it on a par with AmsterdamFollowing the IPOs of Farfetch and Funding Circle, the UK is now home to 15unicorns and six cities have produced so-called unicorns – $1bn tech companies– according to research prepared for Tech Nation and the Government’s DigitalEconomy Council by venture capital analytics company Dealroom.co. This latestresearch is published ahead of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture,Media and Sport’s first meeting with the Digital Economy Council on 24 October2018.> Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport,> said: “The UK’s track record in creating fast-growing tech companies is> second to none in Europe. These new statistics show Manchester and Edinburgh> are now competing on a global scale and stellar tech firms are growing right> across the country, spreading new jobs and investment. Through our Digital> and Industrial Strategies we are creating the conditions to start up and> grow brilliant tech ideas into world-beating global businesses and pushing> the boundaries of science to change people’s lives for the better.”View the full report deck on SlideShare >

Oxbridging the gap

Looking at the creation of $1bn tech companies, Oxford and Cambridge combinedhave produced more fast-growing tech companies than both Paris and Berlin.> Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech Nation, said: “The UK is fast becoming> a network of digital excellence, with various strengths in different digital> domains. Cities like Manchester, Oxford and Cambridge are producing> significant companies including The Hut Group, Sophos, Oxford Nanopore and> Darktrace. Increasingly these cities are competing with other tech hubs in> Asia and the US and can go head-to-head with Europe’s capitals on many> measures.”The two cities, both renowned for their world-leading research andscholarship, have thriving tech sectors and are home to some of the UK’s mostpromising tech companies. The presence of a large number of pioneering techcompanies across both cities is testimony to how academic research andexcellence can contribute to the next generation of world-leading companies.Cambridge is home to Darktrace, which provides leading artificial intelligencecyber defence to the likes of Raspberry Pi and power company Drax. It wasfounded in 2013 by a combination of mathematicians from the University ofCambridge and experts from MI5, GCHQ and the CIA. Elsewhere, chipmaker CSR andchip designer ARM have maintained close links with Cambridge University afterthey were acquired for £1.5 billion and £23.4 billion by Qualcomm and SoftBankrespectively. Both CSR and ARM continue to hire engineering and computerscience expertise from the university.Oxford Nanopore, which has created a mobile DNA sequencer the size of a USBstick, was spun out of Professor Hagan Bayley’s University of Oxford lab andnow collaborates with many universities around the world and its DNAsequencing technology is now available in more than 80 countries. Immunocore,a privately-owned biotech company which counts Microsoft co-founder Bill Gatesamong its backers, evolved from an Oxford University spin-off company and isnow working with universities around the world.

Manny on the map

In the North of England, Manchester has become home to a thriving e-commercecluster of retail businesses and has produced as many unicorns as Amsterdam,the Dutch capital. The North West city is headquarters for quoted techcompanies including boohoo and AO.com, as well as privately owned The HutGroup. Travel business Onthebeach.com and publisher Autotrader are alsonotable tech companies in the city.> Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester, said: “Manchester is a city with a> brilliant reputation for science, commerce and creativity and of course is> closely associated with Alan Turing, the father of modern computing. We have> an opportunity now to build on the great work that has been done to create> these new technology businesses and forge a truly connected city for the> people who live and work here, creating even more future unicorns and> globally significant businesses.”With a population that is significantly smaller than Amsterdam’s, Manchesternow has 10 accelerators – specialist business centres helping entrepreneurscreate startup firms – and had investment per head of population of $490 in2017, higher than Amsterdam’s $400. Across the Pennines in Leeds, two unicornshave been created in Sky Betting & Gaming, which was sold for £3.4bn to largerrival The Stars Group in 2018 and Callcredit, which was sold to TransUnion for£1bn earlier this year. Edinburgh counts SkyScanner and data consultancy groupWood Mackenzie as unicorns.> Sam Gyimah, Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Minister, said:> “This report shows that Britain is one of the best places to start and grow> a world-changing business. We’re backing the success of Britain’s> entrepreneurs through our Industrial Strategy: investing more than ever in> R&D, making it easier to raise finance for new ventures, and making sure our> regulations encourage innovation rather than stand in its way. The success> of startups in Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh shows how innovation and tech> is driving growth right across the country. Our Strength In Places fund will> double down on these advantages, investing in growing tech clusters all> around the UK.”> Eileen Burbidge, Co-founder and Partner at Passion Capital, Fintech Envoy to> HM Treasury, Chair of Tech Nation, said: “Right across the nation, many> different communities are seeing startups forming and scaleups growing,> providing great jobs and opportunities. The UK’s reputation for excellence> in computer science and engineering, its world leading universities, its> creative industries and the strength of the City of London have all> contributed to produce a flourishing tech ecosystem throughout the UK.”The report compares the UK’s capital and its thriving regional cities withprominent tech hubs in Europe, to show how they measure up. It finds that theUK has created 60 unicorns in total, which equates to 35% of Europe andIsrael’s total 168 unicorns. The latest data compares Oxbridge with Paris;London with Berlin; and Manchester with Amsterdam across a number of factorsthat help to contribute to tech ecosystem development. Besides number ofunicorns, the report looked at population size, position of highest placeduniversity in world rankings, number of accelerators and investment per capitain tech companies in 2017. Four out of the top 10 global universities arelocated in the UK, as are eight of Europe’s top 20 universities.> Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon, said: “The UK is taking a leading> role in innovation in Amazon and that is why we are planning to create over> 1,000 highly skilled jobs in the country’s tech hubs of Manchester,> Cambridge and Edinburgh. Over the last eight years, Amazon has invested more> than £9.3bn in the UK because of the very strong talent and engineering> skills that we find here.”

London Calling

London is the acknowledged centre of Europe’s tech sector, producing 21% ofthe continent’s fast-growing unicorns. The capital has produced 36 unicornsworth $132bn, while Berlin has produced eight worth $32bn.> Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “London’s tech sector is envied across> the world so it is good to see evidence of how it is producing so many fast-> growing new businesses. However, we also recognise how important it is that> the capital collaborates with other cities in the UK, which are building> similarly strong tech communities. When London succeeds, the whole country> benefits.”

OxfordAI initiative.”

Riwa Harfoush, Head of Network Intelligence, Oxford Sciences Innovation, said:“For years investors have put money into spinouts coming out of OxfordUniversity’s world-leading research and labs. The difference now is that thereis real momentum behind the growth of the tech sector in the city and strongrelationships between Oxford, global investors, industry leaders, policymakers and entrepreneurs. The growth of this ecosystem means we can support UKcompanies on their journey towards becoming world-beating companies in ameaningful way.”Will Shu, founder and CEO of Deliveroo, said: “Deliveroo is building one ofEurope’s leading tech hubs in London. We are a proud British company and areonly able to grow globally because of the success we have had here, thanks tothe vibrant food scene, brilliant customers, talent from around the world anddedicated riders. The UK has some unique features which make it an attractiveplace to start up and grow, and we will continue to invest in Britain as weserve more amazing meals to people across the world.”Matthew Moulding, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Hut Group, said:“Manchester led the industrial revolution and generations later the digitaltech sector is providing new prosperity and jobs for the people of the city.At The Hut Group we have grown into a global company from our Manchester home,with access to talent and supply chains worldwide. You don’t need to be inLondon to grow an international business.”Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of Darktrace, said: “Darktrace is headquartered inCambridge and home to our R&D team. This has given us access to the best andbrightest minds in artificial intelligence, allowing us to build a globalcompany that soared to a valuation of $1.65 billion in just five years and isthe world-leader in cyber AI. The UK’s science base is second to none, andCambridge is the UK’s leading hub for outstanding technology companies andbrilliant minds.”Bryan Dove, CEO at Skyscanner, said: “Having started our journey from ourfirst office, in Edinburgh, over a decade ago, our growth continues to bebolstered by world-class talent coming out of Scotland’s universities and theflourishing tech-startup community in the city.”Wendy Tan White, adviser to BGF, Tech Nation board member and trustee of AlanTuring Institute, said: “The UK’s track record in producing startups that goon to be globally significant companies is strong and is getting stronger allthe time. The increased number of IPOs and potential future unicorns in thepipeline shows why investors are keen to invest in UK startups and developsome of this country’s most innovative tech IP into business ideas that willreally help improve productivity and prosperity in the long term.”Suzanne Ashman, partner, LocalGlobe, said: “The UK’s track record forproducing unicorns is on an upward curve, supported by investors who havealready built successful businesses and are now reinvesting the proceeds. Morethan one in three of Europe’s $1bn tech companies is founded here in the UKand that is why we continue to attract some of the world’s top talent to theseshores.”Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens UK, said: “Digitalisation istransforming manufacturing and it is absolutely vital for the UK to stay atthe forefront of this new and exciting fourth industrial revolution. There isa rich history of science and innovation in our cities, and Siemens isactively working with the startup community to help stimulate innovation andhelp create the economy of the future.”Marcus Stuttard, Head of AIM & UK Primary Markets, London Stock Exchange,said: “The UK’s leadership in the tech sector is clearly demonstrated in thecapital markets, with almost £3bn having been raised by technology companieson London Stock Exchange markets so far this year. In addition to 18 techcompany IPOs we have continued to see existing London listed tech companiesraise significant levels of equity capital and we expect that number to keeprising as investors increasingly want access to the growth delivered by thetech sector.”Mike Gordon, CEO of TransUnion (formerly Callcredit), said: “Over the pastdecade, Leeds has affirmed its place as a digital hub, and we’re proud to be apart of that. We’ve been fortunate to benefit from a great local pool oftalent as we’ve grown, with our innovation and expertise attractinginternational investment. Now, as TransUnion, we’re part of a global network,with access to a broader range of products and technology to enable ourcontinued expansion.”Rafael Jordá Siquier, co-founder and CEO, Open Cosmos, said: “Open Cosmosstarted three years ago in Oxford’s Harwell Campus with the mission to deliversatellite-based solutions to solve the world biggest challenges such us globalcommunications, optimised logistics or earth preservation. Today, with onesatellite in orbit and several more being delivered, it has become one of thefastest-growing new space companies in the world thanks to the greatentrepreneurial, innovative and supportive environment found in the UK.”David Richards, founder and CEO WANdisco, said: “There’s never been a bettertime to be involved in UK tech, with so many great companies coming throughthe pipeline. From my perspective in the US, I can see that people are reallystarting to wake up and respond to Europe’s potential and in a very short timethe UK has made itself the clear leader of a vibrant, technology network basedon great science and entrepreneurship.”Reshma Sohoni, co-founder and managing partner, Seedcamp, said: “As someonewho invests right across Europe, I see strengths in tech hubs in manycountries. Sometimes entrepreneurs building a business off the beaten trackcan feel that they are missing out on reaching investors or experts who canhelp them. This analysis shows that the UK’s regional cities are punching wellabove their weight and are supporting thriving ecosystems of their own. Inturn that will help other entrepreneurs to take the risk of starting their owntech businesses.”Mark Richer, chairman and founder, StarLeaf, said: “Having two developmentsites in Cambridge enables us to tap into the ingenuity of the academic talentand be anchored in what is fast becoming the innovation capital of Europe.That we have become one of the UK’s fastest-growing private companies isdirectly related to the amazing engineering talent that we are able toattract, nurture and further develop.”James Wise, partner at Balderton Capital, said: “The UK is leading Europe bysome distance and we are seeing clear areas of expertise emerging such as thefocus on artificial intelligence, healthtech and fintech. With governmentsupport for cutting-edge research we can continue to be at the forefront ofEuropean innovation.”Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates, said:“Tech is diversifying the UK economy to a greater extent than any othersector. We rightly celebrate London’s successes, but we must remember tochampion other regions that help the country as a whole to push the boundariesof innovation. Building a tech unicorn takes talent, creativity, innovationand an environment that encourages ingenuity. These figures are a testament toBritain’s tradition of academic excellence, and its ability to combinecommercial prowess and generate world-class innovation.”Nick Bray, CFO of Sophos, said: “Sophos has always had strong links to OxfordUniversity with our founders having met whilst studying there. As a globalcompany we value the talent that we have on our doorstep and are excited tosee a growing number of world-class startups and tech companies choosing tobase themselves here.”Stephen Welton, Chief Executive of BGF, said: “Since the creation of BGF in2011 we have been able to support the growth of hundreds of brilliantbusinesses across the country, including in the critical technology andinnovation sector. We are excited by the dedication and passion ofentrepreneurs in the UK, many of whom are inspired by the fast-growingsuccesses of the last decade. We need to build on that.”View the full report deck on SlideShare >Cambridge,East of England,Edinburgh,Leeds,London,Manchester,North West,Oxford,Scotland,South East,Yorkshire,Late Stage

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