Do you want to start a business in UK? If YES, here are 20 best cities in UK with lots of opportunities for you to start a business as a foreigner. Most people believe London to be the only place of note in Great Britain worth investing or starting a business. It is not very hard to understand why: with the magnificent capital towers on the global stage and being a central node in the web of world trade.
But you need to understand that Britain has many successful business communities outside of London and the future prosperity of the UK greatly rests on them. Choosing a suitable location for your business is one key factor in the success of your business.
Aside from understanding your business type and its specific needs, there are other factors to check in selecting the best location for your business, especially in the united kingdom. Traffic and accessibility is one crucial factor to consider whether you have a service-based business or not.
Also, if you plan to offer products and services, you may first want to analyze the market share and your possible competitors nearby. You should also take your time to research the average rates on commercial properties. There are some areas where the government offers funding on businesses in specific industries.
Also, check out other costs and requirements needed to put up your business. If your business will need resources from other companies, it’s essential to look for nearby suppliers. Aside from speeding up the conversion of raw materials into goods and services, supporting other local businesses will help in the growth of the economy.
Management Today’s “The 21 Best Towns and Cities for Business” ranked the UK’s major urban centers, excluding London, based on how conducive they are for business. The report focused on the needs of mid-to-large, talent-hungry, high-productivity firms.
It also examined towns and cities on various metrics including, among others, productivity, the depth of the talent pool, the strength of innovation, the scale of the private sector ecosystem and the rate of growth. Below are the top 20 best cities to do business in the United Kingdom.
20 Best Cities in UK to Start a Business and Succeed
Table of Content
Dubbed the ‘The UK’s most livable city’, everyone in Manchester, especially it’s 100,000 students who choose to live there and entrepreneurs that make the city the second most popular destination for graduates in the UK, seem to agree.
Being the UK’s leading regional city for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and a pilot city for the Local Industrial Strategies (which creates new ways of working between national and local government, and the public and private sectors), Manchester’s industry strengths are focused around tech and emergent sectors, including advanced materials, healthcare analytics, cybersecurity and fintech.
Note that this breadth of innovation is underpinned by a supportive infrastructure, the largest concentration of private equity firms outside of London and world-class university research and industry collaborations. All these fuels an entrepreneurial culture of spin-offs, start-ups and high-growth SMEs. Have it in mind that this city boasts of a number of success stories.
Also placed to leverage its location at the heart of the UK and as the ‘Crossroads of the North’– the region will be an even more attractive proposition after the arrival of HS2. Manchester has redoubled its efforts to reduce carbon emissions in line with the science-based targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. It is now at the forefront of world cities leading on this issue.
Bristol is greatly adorned with dynamic culture of talent and innovation that has solidified it’s very reputation as a sustainable, forward-thinking city with a highly skilled workforce, which drives economic growth and enhances productivity.
With 54 per cent of the workforce educated to at least degree level, the city’s submission highlighted a diverse business sector, which is rich in world-leading expertise, particularly in environmental technologies, high tech, aerospace and advanced engineering, media, and financial and professional services.
Also known as the second largest digital tech cluster outside London, with a turnover of £8.1bn, and the third largest UK media hub outside London and Manchester, Bristol’s innovative output is featured around the world (it is one of three hub locations for the BBC and home to the Oscar-winning Aardman Animation, creators of Wallace and Gromit).
Bristol is connected by air to most major international cities and just over 80 minutes from London by train, Bristol is a major port with worldwide trade links, home to a growing population of more than 450,000 (among which at least 91 different languages are spoken) and regularly tops polls as the UK’s most livable city.
Leeds boost of over three million residents, 1.5 million jobs and a £66.5bn economic output. This city already has a strong foundation on which to build, benefiting from some of the fastest growing firms in the UK. The city favors a dynamic approach that enables collaboration between industry, researchers, clinicians and public sector leaders – this boosts larger businesses and attracts inward investment.
It is worthy to note that Inclusive Growth Strategy sets out ’12 Big Ideas’ to transform the economy by developing a compassionate city and working together across all sectors to create better jobs, tackle low pay and boost productivity.
All the facts and ideas include backing innovators and entrepreneurs in business and social enterprises; and delivering transformational change across the city.
Gradually, Leeds is growing it’s international reputation and world leading capabilities in digital healthcare innovation, medical technologies, robot design and construction as well as a growing digital and creative sector, demonstrated by the siting of the UK’s only independent Internet Exchange outside London and Channel 4 choosing Leeds for its new HQ.
Sky’s national technology center of expertise is also based in the city. Also note that Leeds has UK’s largest financial services cluster outside the capital, with 30 national and international banks based in the city. Emerging fintech and cybersecurity sub-sectors are creating new opportunities.
Edinburgh has grown 12.5 per cent in the past ten years, progressed in data science, cyber security, robotics and stem cell research, and enjoys one of the highest rates of successful business start-ups in the UK. The Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative is part of the £1.3bn Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal that aims to train 100,000 people to create the data capital of Europe.
Being very near to Heathrow and London has propelled Reading into a major business city – it’s just 25 minutes from Paddington and the future western terminus of Cross rail – but Reading is a top business location in its own right. It is one of the top 25 European cities for FDI and has long-standing clusters in IT, pharma, finance and professional services.
Also the Reading Central Business Improvement District aids sustainable growth and the quality of life attracts talent – Reading has the highest wages outside London and 20 per cent of Reading University graduates join the local workforce. Report has it that over £7m has been invested over the last decade in the Reading Central Business Improvement District, with another now planned for the Abbey Quarter.
Sometimes regarded as the economic powerhouse of Scotland. Glasgow generated over £43.5 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2018, it is home to more than a third of all Scottish jobs and the fastest growing major city economy in the UK.
Glasgow boosts of a diverse business and industry base and has identified the growth of SMEs in particular to be a key contributing factor in achieving the aim outlined in the Economic Strategy 2016-2013 of becoming the most productive urban economy in the UK by 2023.
To support, this it hopes to create a collaborative – and unrivalled – network of business support, engaging the public, private and education sectors. Over the years, the City council has been working with suppliers to help SMEs access specialist support.
Cardiff is more or less a young city, but recent developments has seen key growth sectors and internationally competitive clusters emerge in the financial, creative, life sciences and advanced manufacturing sectors, with some of the UK’s leading businesses in these sectors calling Cardiff home. Also a capital city, businesses have the Welsh Government on the doorstep and a host of national organizations and HQs to support various activities.
Continued investment in infrastructure (such as the £1bn South Wales Metro) and regeneration has put Cardiff at the forefront of UK cities as an investment location. Report has it that over 48 per cent of Cardiff’s workforce are qualified to NVQ4 level or above. It had the highest ranking for a UK core city in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2018.
This city was generally designed for large scale growth and as an ‘urban utopia’ for housing, business and leisure mid-way between London and Birmingham. Milton Keynes (MK) now boast of the third highest number of businesses per head and the third highest GVA per worker of all British cities, as well as one of the highest start-up rates – gingered up by local business incubation initiatives and access to the Midlands Engine Investment Fund.
The City Council and Cranfield University are developing MK:U – a business-sponsored university due to open in 2023, offering STEM subjects and the skills that local employers require in order to grow. Also note that population growth, a large catchment area a and potential for new development means massive growth opportunities for business.
Boosting of a huge population of 1.13 million, the city already has the second biggest economy in the UK after London. Professional and financial services, advanced manufacturing and the digital economy are very crucial sectors.
The West Midlands secured a record 171 FDI projects in 2017-18, and created 9,424 new jobs – the only region to see an increase in both figures. This city is also home to the second largest number of tech start-up accelerator and incubator hubs in the UK, as well as the Silicon Canal, Innovation Birmingham Campus, Custard Factory and Steamhouse innovative spaces.
With it’s first Metro Mayor elected two years ago to drive prosperity, encourage innovation, strengthen partnerships and expand opportunities, Liverpool has since secured greater powers and funding to invest directly into business, skills, transport and infrastructure, with numerous successful initiatives such as the Growth Hub (SME business support) and the Business Growth Grant.
The city’s Regeneration projects worth £14bn are in the pipeline in a city that is already home to major global brands and a world leader in sectors as diverse as maritime and logistics, health and life sciences, energy and the environment, creative, digital and tech, and advanced manufacturing and engineering.
The city’s Pall Mall development will provide 400,000 sq. ft. of grade A office space, while Paddington Village is a landmark £1bn expansion site, creating 1.8m sq. ft. of science, technology, education and health space.
Cambridge is just an hour ride from London by train and will surely benefit from the new A14 motorway section next year, Cambridge is also linked to both international markets and, top-class human capital. The city is Europe’s largest technology cluster.
Reports have it that over 57,000 people are employed by the 1,500 technology-based firms in the area, with a combined annual revenue of over £13 billion. It leads in machine learning and AI, information technology, life sciences, gaming, and food and drink industries. Microsoft’s European research HQ is in the city – as are Amazon, Apple and many more.
Also note that the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ has witnessed an explosion of globally significant companies and innovations in tech, life sciences and service companies since 1960, with networking and peer support in the business community.
Over the years, Brighton and Hove local economy has grown to over £7bn. This growth was propelled by the rise of new industries (creative and digital) and strong consolidation in others (tourism and retail). Also, with 35,000 students, there is always a huge pool of highly skilled and well-trained individuals to attract expanding businesses or start-ups – of which the city has one of the highest rates in the UK.
Plans for the Edward Street Quarter, Hove Station site and Sackville Trading Estate will deliver much-needed office space for SMEs to grow and develop, while the year-round cultural offering makes the city an attractive proposition for both employees and visitors.
Slough is more readily addressed as the youngest population in the UK, with the education system producing results in the top ten nationally. Slough also has more corporate headquarters than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together, a strong manufacturing base and an impressive business start-up rate.
Although the town is just 15 minutes from London Paddington (with Cross rail due in 2023), three motorways are within easy reach and Heathrow is on the doorstep.
The Slough Urban Renewal project has brought leisure facilities, homes and a new cultural center, while plans for the future include a mixed-use redevelopment in the heart of Slough costing over £300m. Slough is the most productive urban area in the UK (Centre for Cities, 2019) and home to the largest trading estate in Europe – 500 businesses employing 20,000 employees.
Nottingham is moving into a new era of development, with office, residential, retail and leisure schemes set to transform the city center. This city is already adorned with a strong ecosystem, including a variety of tech hubs and co-working spaces, two universities (centers of excellence in aerospace, cancer research, Industry 4.0, data analytics and food science) and a high quality workforce of over 1.1 million people. The birthplace of both Ibuprofen and the MRI scanner, the city remains at the cutting edge of health innovation.
Southampton steadily over the years has grown through the league tables, confirming itself as the economic powerhouse of England’s South coast. Network Eagle Lab, an innovative co-working concept, provides business start-up and scale-up space for entrepreneurs and students of two world-class universities.
With this city undergoing an ambitious scheme of regeneration (£3bn investment since 2012), the council’s vision is that every aspect of Southampton will be connected and accessible, both the digital infrastructure and the physical environment, showcasing a maritime port that is also a clean, green, tech-focused smart city.
Southampton’s GVA rose by 2.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2018, according to the most recent UK Powerhouse report, with employment up 1.9 per cent.
Known as the regional capital of North East England, Newcastle is one of the UK’s core cities and a crucial part of the Northern Powerhouse. This city has been ranked one of the top British cities for scale-up tech investment, the UK’s best city to work in and the Best University City for three years running.
It is also one of the UK’s more cost-effective cities to do business, with property 68 per cent cheaper than London. According to experts, The North Sea Connect project will bring vast digital infrastructure to the area and, via existing subsea networks, give Newcastle the UK’s best connections to businesses in America and Europe.
The collective goal and vision of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, an area of 400,000 residents which, since April, has come under one unitary authority, is to be a 21st century digital city-region by the sea. Development investment since 2013 has reached £1bn, actively encouraged and facilitated by the council, which is also investing in digital and transport infrastructure.
Have it in mind that there is a concrete engineering and advanced manufacturing sector clustered around the Port of Poole and Bournemouth International Airport worth £1.2bn a year, while JP Morgan, Vitality, BNY Mellon and others are part of the most cost competitive financial services location in the UK. Tech Nation rated Bournemouth as number one for high-growth digital tech businesses in 2017 and recorded growth in digital-tech jobs of 25 per cent between 2014 and 2017.
According to recent statistics, the Cheshire and Warrington economy has grown faster than anywhere else in England, while the latter is one of only 14 UK towns or cities defined as ‘high wage and low welfare’, with 79.8 per cent of its population in employment.
The Warrington Means Business master plan is steadily driving forward projects in excess of £750 million, including the major regeneration and evolution of the town center, alongside other measures such as the future development of commercial property in the Enterprise Zone.
The local business base is diverse, but is particularly strong in energy (specifically nuclear), engineering, logistics and software. A new business bank, Redwood, is supporting the local economy through secured lending to local SMEs, as well as national businesses.
This city is best known as an oil and gas hub, but it is also at the pinnacle of the global energy transition to a lower carbon world. Aberdeen is also a very important center for life sciences, with world-leading health research, and home to many global food and drink brands.
Note that even though its maritime heritage remains central (ongoing investments include £350m at Aberdeen Harbor and £50m at Peterhead Port), the city has moved seamlessly into scientific, engineering, digital and low carbon specialisms.
The £826m City Region Deal signed in 2016 is a key example of stakeholders in the region working collaboratively on diversifying and securing the regional economy, while £8bn+ of public and private infrastructure investment is due to be delivered before 2030. Centre for Cities data shows Aberdeen ranked fourth in the UK in 2017 for the percentage of the working age population with higher level qualifications.
Leicester is a growing and diverse city. Recent reports placed Leicester tenth out of 42 UK cities and described it as one of the most improved. Over the years, coupled with thinking and innovative partnerships between local government and the private sector, Leicester boosted growth in investment and jobs, such as the 5,000 positions (plus 1,000 apprenticeships) created through IBM’s Client Innovation Centre, Hastings Direct, Mattioli Woods and Octopus Energy, choosing Leicester as a base.
Also, the first class universities in the local area provide a talent pipeline of 15,000 graduates every year for businesses and a skilled workforce across a range of sectors and levels. The emerging Space Park and Waterside Enterprise Zone (including a technology hub around the National Space Centre) are transforming the city.
Choosing a suitable location in the UK is an important deciding factor in terms of how well your start-up will fare. It’s important to place your business somewhere there is a demand for your output, while still being a cost-effective place to work.