When the West Midlands town of Bromsgrove was ranked the 7th best place to start a company in the UK in 2019, eyebrows were raised. Ranking above major cities including Edinburgh, experts quickly warned that “zombie companies” could have artificially inflated the results of Companies House data compiled by The Centre for Entrepreneurs research. But the horse had well and truly bolted. Headlines such as ‘welcome to Bromsgrove, the start-up hub’ were already out there and so a movement began. A movement that sparked a fresh focus on the UK’s most techy towns. Here are five of Britain’s most unexpected tech hubs that prove you don’t need to live and work in a major city to be part of the digital revolution.
Part of the URBACT TechTown initiative, the town of Barnsley just north of Sheffield is one of 11 cities and towns around Europe who “want to grow their own digital communities and economies”. The locations, which include Limerick in Ireland, San Sebastian in Spain and Siracusa in Italy, have joined forces to see how small and medium sized cities can maximise the job creation potential of the digital economy and look collaboratively at what cities can do to support businesses to access the digital skills and innovations they need in order to start, grow and compete.
This Devon seaside town is fast becoming one of the most innovative research spots in the south west. University researchers have descended to develop sustainable technology solutions to revolutionise crop production. FABsoil, which seeks to ‘create’ soil and study its properties, is a collaborative project between the University of Plymouth and Cornwall’s Eden Project, and demonstrates not only the high-tech innovation happening in Plymouth itself, but also the potential of collaborative work between different tech hubs in the same area.
Home of the Digital Wigan initiative, the local council in this north western town is not only focused on getting more local businesses embracing technology, it wants to digitally enhance its own services. Wigan Council has coined the phrase ‘confidently digital’ to badge its plans for tech growth by 2030. Notably it introduced the Smart Bungalow in 2017, a testbed and demonstration site in a vacant property within the borough filled with assistive technology that is transforming the health and social care sector.
This small Berkshire town is unusually tech rich – it has more than 15 times the average level of digital tech compared to the wider UK according to research by Tech Nation. The town is home of the UK HQ for both Vodafone and Micro Focus. Vodafone employs so many people in the local economy that it provides free shuttle transport to and from its main campus for employees.
Another town punching above its weight in the digital sector with total deals worth £425m between 2015 and 2018. Tech Nation named Hampshire-based Basingstoke the fourth best place for tech investment in the UK in its 2019 report.