Digital Capital: 4 Reasons Businesses are Flocking to Leeds

    21 Feb 2020

    Home to the most diverse economy of all the UK’s main employment centres, Leeds is not just a great place to live, but a great place to do business, too.

    Investment in infrastructure, transport networks and faster internet speeds have resulted in a wave of businesses moving North and descending on the city – from start-ups to big brands and government branches. At the same time, foreign direct investment continues to transform the city and its industries.

    Read on to find out why businesses are flocking to this Northern gem and bolstering its reputation as a scale-up, digital and creative haven. 


    digital city

    Leeds’ economy is the second-fastest growing in the UK after London. A large part of the city’s rapid economic growth stems from its burgeoning digital and creative scene. Today, the digital sector contributes £1.3 billion to the city’s economy and is home to 19 of the North’s fastest growing tech businesses.

    The wider Yorkshire region hosts a fast-growing tech ecosystem, with a number of fintech, cyber security, data analytics, telecoms and education technology companies. In the wider region – which includes Wakefield and Harrogate and the cities of York and Bradford – the digital sector contributes £6.5 billion to the economy and employs 102,000 people across 12,300 businesses.

    Recent times have seen a number of the UK’s creative powerhouses relocate their headquarters to Leeds, including Channel 4, showing the Leeds digital tech sector continues to grow at an attractive rate. 



    The digital and creative strengths of the Leeds City Region are enabling its tech ecosystem to go from strength to strength. According to Ernst & Young, Leeds comes in as the third best performing city for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outside London, with 21 projects selecting the city.

    2019 saw a rise in investment across sectors, including fintech and computer manufacturing, from a number of overseas players, and companies like Sky Betting & Gaming and Rockstar Games show it’s possible to scale-up an international business from the city.

    The data, fintech and media sectors, continue to get a boost with Sports media company Perform Group (DAZN), business software intelligence company, Panintelligience, Sandstone Technology, Estonian-based Fitek, Hudl and Mastek each making investments in the city, as well as home-grown businesses like Datashed and Synap putting Leeds on the map.


    strong talent

    Currently, Leeds City Region is attracting 82% more venture capital than its rival Greater Manchester – outperforming the area by 12%. A large factor in this momentum of business growth and investment is the steady stream of talent emerging from the region’s strong educational institutions.

    Scaling up and building a successful business requires the right talent, support and ecosystems. The region has an annual talent pipeline of 39,000 graduates of which 18,000 are in STEAM subjects. Yorkshire is home to eight of the top academic institutions in the country and the the University of Leeds School of Computing regularly ranks as one of the best in the country, providing a constant stream of tech talent to start-ups and growing enterprises.

    Many large companies are forming links with educational institutions, from graduate schemes to collaborating on research and development to the recruitment of graduates. Scaled Insights, a Canadian artificial intelligence start-up, had developed links with the University of Leeds for some time and recently announced Leeds as the location of its new UK headquarters.


    start-up community

    As an expanding digital and creative hub, Leeds plays home to a number of start-ups, scale-ups and a thriving entrepreneurial community.

    Highly-successful tech hubs, such as Bruntwood, which supports businesses in the tech and science sectors, continue to support the city’s growing ecosystem and according to Beauhurst’s 2018 Scale Up Index, The Leeds City Region is home to 209 visible scale-ups – the highest concentration outside London.

    As well as a supportive and growing tech community, Leeds is an attractive alternative to London for businesses looking to grow or scale. Office accommodation is around one-third that of London, giving companies a longer runway and higher chance of success while still remaining just two hours from the capital by train for convenient meetings with investors or clients.

    With strong digital and creative chops, a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem and an attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment, companies from a range of industries are showing Leeds is a great place to do business.


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