New rankings show UK’s most active tech innovation cities

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A new UK Tech Innovation Index published today shows that London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton, Southampton are the top 5 cities for data innovation.

The research was undertaken as a first step to gain a clearer picture of the UK innovation landscape, to help inform business and public sector decision-making around investment and growth.

Data on tech events, conferences and meetups from a range of sources have been brought together with data such as academic publications, local skills measures, business startup rates, and research and development spending. Together these shed new light on where British innovation is flourishing. The rankings show how active the innovation community is in 36 of the largest UK cities, across seven key industrial sectors:

  • Data
  • Manufacturing
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Health
  • Internet of Things
  • Machine learning
  • Virtual Reality

The rankings show that tech innovation is unsurprisingly strong in London. However innovation is not limited to the South East: there are highly active hubs across the country, including Edinburgh, Reading, Cardiff and Liverpool.

In many places, particularly smaller cities, innovation is aligned with local industries. For example, Aberdeen, with its strong offshore engineering industries, and Coventry and Birmingham with their car industries, are today very strong in manufacturing innovation.

Larger cities such as London, Manchester, and Glasgow have strong innovation ecosystems across all measured sectors.

Tom Forth, Head of Data at ODI Leeds, who led the project, explains how it is different from other pieces of innovation research: “Our approach to measuring innovation pioneers new ways of picking out the early signs that industrial clusters are emerging. Our results are largely as expected, with large cities such as London, Manchester, and Glasgow performing strongly in all areas and well-known overachievers such as Edinburgh, Cambridge, and Brighton punching well above their weight.

“Interestingly, our techniques seem to spot early signs of more focused excellence. In Reading and Liverpool we see real strength in Internet of Things. Leeds does very well in Health. And in Aberdeen and Coventry, Manufacturing is notably strong. There are early signs of other new clusters emerging in other new fields, right across the country. The data behind these rankings is improving all the time, as more tech events are held, and more scientific papers are published. We hope that by sharing our research at this early stage we can learn from others and improve our techniques even more quickly.”

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute, said: “This new research reveals that innovation around data isn’t a London-based phenomenon, with the current methodology highlighting active communities in Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton and Southampton. Using real-time data to identify clusters should help inform innovation policy, where it’s especially important to respond to how things are, rather than how they were, as well as the behaviour of businesses and jobseekers. Developing measures like this in the open also helps to increase our understanding about what drives innovation and which activities create real impact. I’m looking forward to seeing Tom’s work being discussed, adapted and built on.”