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Most innovative cities in UK revealed

The UK Tech Innovation Index, published today, reveals the most innovative cities in Britain

Posted by Charley Rogers | August 01, 2017 | Business

The new UK Tech Innovation Index published today by the Open Data Institute and the Digital Catapult shows that:

•   London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton, Southampton are the top 5 cities for data innovation

•   Reading and Liverpool lead on ‘Internet of Things’ innovation

•   Smaller cities often provide focused industry excellence, such as Aberdeen and Coventry, which host thriving manufacturing innovation communities

•   London’s size means it tops innovation activity across the board, but smaller cities such as Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Brighton punch above their weight

The UK Tech Innovation Index, published today by the Open Data Institute, which is celebrating its fifth birthday in 2017, and the Digital Catapult, shows the most active innovation communities in the UK by industry sector, captured in an online interactive map.

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.

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. 

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.”

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.

We’re seeing high potential clusters of innovation across the UK, linked to opportunities identified within the tech sector or aligned to universities or dominant regional industries. 

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 clusters emerging in 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.” 

Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO at the Digital Catapult, added:

“This research confirms and subverts wide-held views on the UK tech industry. While London continues to be a heavyweight player on the global tech stage – innovation is by no means confined to the capital. We’re seeing high potential clusters of innovation across the UK, linked to opportunities identified within the tech sector or aligned to universities or dominant regional industries. Our own Digital Catapult regional centres reflect this too."

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