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The Top 7 UK Cities for Start-ups

Are you a start-up founder? Are you wondering which UK city will offer the best opportunities for your start-up? 

From the growth potential of the digital economy,  the quality of life to the support of the local tech community. Start-up owners need to take it all into consideration when choosing a base for their business.

Here we break down some of the best cities in the UK for start-ups based on information taken from Tech Nation's 2018 and 2019 reports.


Over the years Leeds has truly made its mark in the world of digital tech. The city is home to the most innovative technology teams in the world from Crisp ThinkingNHS Digital and Rockstar Games.

The city is a hub of opportunity for both tech professionals and tech businesses. Eve Roodhouse (Chief Officer Economic Development at Leeds City Council) said in Tech Nation’s latest report ‘UK Tech on a global scale’ “Leeds is distinctively ambitious, powered by innovators, entrepreneurs, and social pioneers. There is real momentum across the city with the arrival this year of the Barclays Eagle Labin the new AvenueHQ co-working space. Additionally, there is NEXUS, the University of Leeds Innovation Centre, and Co Space North – a space for people passionate about digitally-enabled health and care to connect, collaborate and co-create.”

According to research from CW Jobs the average salary for tech workers in Leeds is £62,500. This combined with quality of life and the growth of the digital economy are just some of the reason’s tech professionals enjoy being based here.

What do start-ups like about being based in Leeds?

In a recent Q&A with Amsource Technology, Myles and Bradley Jensen (Founders of Leeds based For Forks Sake and winners of ‘One to watch 2019’ at the Leeds Digital Festival Awards 2019) highlighted just some of the reasons they think Leeds is a great base for business.  “We have lived in London, Birmingham, Spain, Liverpool and now Leeds. Leeds has something unique that we haven’t seen in any other city. It’s the true sense of collaboration and a willingness to truly help each other grow. Cities like London are an extremely competitive landscape, whilst Leeds is as well, we have found that people genuinely want to help and see others do well. You may find an investor or someone that would be really beneficial to the business, and they say unfortunately it is not for them, but the difference to Leeds to many other places is they more than often will redirect or put you in contact with someone who's more suitable.”

Cardiff is being recognised as one of the UK’s fastest growing digital cities. According to Tech Nation’s 2018 report, over 90 digital businesses have started-up in the city since 2016. Along with this, the digital sector is seeing employment levels rise year on year in the city paired with the average salary for those in the digital sector which currently stands at a favourable £52,000 (CW Jobs).

Cardiff has also been recognised as the highest UK city in a list of up and coming start-up cities – globally. Sitting in the top 10 spot of the list curated by

What do start-ups like about being based in Cardiff?

Chris Ganje, CEO of Cardiff base AMPLYFI was featured in Tech Nation’s 2018 report. When asked about what makes Cardiff unique? Chris highlighted access to talent from the world class universities in the vicinity of the city as a major factor. As well as the increasing support from the welsh government and the development of Bank of Wales funding and support mechanisms.

Sheffield has a vibrant and ambitious digital sector with over 5,495 digital companies operating across the Sheffield region.

Digital companies in Sheffield boast one of the highest growth rates of any cluster in the UK with a turnover at 47%. Most of the tech outfits based in Sheffield are used by international clients, putting Sheffield’s tech on a global stage.

The average salary for tech workers in the city is in the region of £52,000. The cost of living also remains one of the most favourable in the North which is an attractive factor for those wanting to live and work in the city.

What do start-ups like about being based in Sheffield?

We caught up with the team behind Sheffield based start-up Tutorful in 2018. Here’s what they said they liked about being based in Sheffield. “Sheffield is a fantastic city for all sorts of start-ups, not just those operating within the tech sector. There’s a flourishing entrepreneurial scene here supported by a host of great local businesses, two brilliant universities and networks like Sheffield Digital and Start-up Weekend. Being in close proximity to Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle also connects Sheffield directly with other northern start-up hubs, with easy access to their networks and talent.”

Laura Smith, Co-Founder of Slanted Theory told Tech Nation that “Sheffield is continuously evolving and is a city with a vibrant community of creative and ambitious individuals. It’s a place where you can set up and experiment with your ideas, drawing from a fresh talent pool from the two universities here.”

Edinburgh’s technology sector has seen an incredible amount of growth in recent years.  The Scottish city is home to major international companies as well as tech unicorns including Skyscanner and FanDuel.

The Tech scene in the city prides itself on being extremely collaborative. Notable workspaces driving this include Tech CubeThe Melting PotCreative Exchange and CodeBase - the UK’s largest tech incubator.

What do start-ups like about being based in Edinburgh?

Andrew McGinley, CEO of Care Sourcer told TechNation"Edinburgh is an amazing city with lots going on. It has a thriving tech ecosystem that attracts some of world’s best talent. We are based in CodeBase, one of the UK’s largest tech incubators, with over 90 companies, which enables quick access to other founders and fosters fantastic peer to peer development.”

Edinburgh also offers a supportive community for start-ups to grow in. It’s home to CivTech, the Scotland-wide initiative, helping start-ups engage with, and solve, public sector challenges.

When asked ‘Why Edinburgh?’ Julie Grieve, CEO of Criton Apps said “Edinburgh was my first choice because of the talent coming out of the universities and the current pool of tech staff. CodeBase has also been very useful, particularly the network of other tech CEOs where we regularly share knowledge.”

Bristol is fast becoming one of the most vibrant tech clusters in the UK.

Bristol has been a popular growth spot in areas such as Aerospace, with Bristol being home to Airbus. As well as being the birth place of Graphcore, the world’s leading, Silicon Valley backed, Machine Learning and AI chip designers.

Tech professionals have cited high salaries, quality of life and the supportive nature of the digital tech community, as just some of the reasons they like being based in Bristol.

What do start-ups like about being based in Bristol?

Georgia Stewart, co-founder of Bristol based Tumelo spoke to Tech Nation about her love of being based in the south-west city. “Bristol is an amazing place to found and run a start-up. There is a bustling tech hub by the station, a tonne of accelerators and incubators offering support, and a vibrant community of friendly tech founders.”

Silas Adekunle CEO & Co-founder of Reach Robotics says“Bristol has been long established as a science and tech hub. The city has allowed us to grow and flourish in our early years and continue to acquire the high calibre talent we need to expand further. Innovation is right on our doorstep, with two universities, allowing us to infuse brand new ways of thinking into our revolutionary products and ideas.”

According to the Local Growth Hub Liverpool is the UK’s most digitally skilled city. 

According to analysis of 88k job adverts and 6k adults, Liverpool has the best digital skills across search, communications, content creation and device protection.

The city has been described by Andy Kent of Angel Solutions as a “hive of creativity” and being full to the brim of talented people. Liverpool has seen recent homegrown success with the Baltic Triangle (Liverpool’s start-up hub and independent business quarter) and the Paddington Village ( This £1 billion flagship expansion site sitting at the eastern gateway of the city centre’s Knowledge Quarter). 

Many local Liverpool tech businesses are also now seeing success internationally.

What do start-ups like about being based in Liverpool?

Lee Omar is CEO of Liverpool based tech for good start-up Red Ninja. When asked by Tech Nation what about strengths for Liverpool when it comes to start-ups he spoke about the industry support in the city. “There are some awesome grassroots non-profits such as Agent Academy, OH and Liverpool Girl Geeks working to empower and up-skill people to enter the tech workforce.”

The city brought us the first modern computer 70 years ago and since then the city has gone from strength to strength in technological advancements.

Manchester these days is making waves in Blockchain tech and E-commerce with global online retailers BoohooPretty Little Thing and Missguided all being based in the city!

The city’s research into computer vision and machine learning is world-leading. The talent pool flooding from its universities is enviable, and its living costs are significantly cheaper than London.” (Tech Nation 2018)

Tech Hubs within the city including Mediacity are attracting tech excellence including ITV and BBC. As well as Manchester Science Partnerships central campus being home to more than 170 companies in Science, healthtech, biotech, digital and creative!

What do start-ups like bout being based in Manchester?

Steven Bartlett, CEO of Social Chain in Manchester says, “We feel Manchester has become the epicentre of creativity and disruption in the UK, which has allowed us to recruit the best talent that reflects our business now, and where we want to be in the future.”

Living costs are considerably low in Manchester, meaning that rent for workspace is generally lower as well, cutting overhead costs for businesses.

“Manchester is one of the world’s leading research centres for computer vision and machine learning with a great talent pool coming out of the universities. In addition, costs of living are on average 42% cheaper than those in London. Yet we can get to the capital in just two hours.” David Levine, CEO Digital Bridge.

85% of start-ups in Manchester said that they liked the growth potential of the tech sector in the city, paired with the overall quality of life in Manchester and the strength of the digital economy.

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