Is Bristol the UK’s most productive tech cluster?
Bristol’s tech community has hailed a game-changing flood of investment into the city in 2017 which has helped Bristol become the most competitive and productive tech cluster in the whole UK.
Bristol and Bath’s tech cluster has raised its profile across Europe in the last year, being ranked 12th in Atomico’s State of European Tech list of European cities by capital invested in 2017.
Bristol also has the highest digital tech turnover per person in the UK at £320,000. Graphcore, a company that has spun out of Bristol University and is developing a processing unit that can hold a complete machine learning model in its processor is one of the recipients of this fundraising, having raised $80m in 2017. Another Bristol University spin-off – Ultrahaptics – raised $23m in 2017.
Tech Nation on Tour arrives at Engine Shed the co-working space and incubator for Bristol and Bath on 12 September when entrepreneurs, founders and tech ecosystem experts will assemble to debate the opportunities for developing startups in the South West cities.
Data on Bristol will be presented by Tech Nation’s insights team which will feed into a discussion on the challenges faced by local entrepreneurs and startups.
The panel discussion will be moderated by Engine Shed Associate Director Briony Phillips and will feature Nigel Toon, co-founder and chief executive of Graphcore, a semi-conductor company that is developing processors for artificial intelligence; Serrie Chapman, the founder of the Women’s Tech Hub, Bristol; Lucy Yu, director of public policy at autonomous vehicle startup Five AI; Tom Carter, the co-founder and CTO of Ultrahaptics, a company which is developing ultrasound to project mid-air sensations for use in controls and Giles Palmer, co-founder and chief executive of Brighton’s Brandwatch.
Dr George Windsor, Insights Lead at Tech Nation, said: “There are likely to be a number of reasons for Bristol’s high productivity. We found that higher productivity correlates to higher digital density, suggesting that there are worker level effects resulting from companies clustering. It may be that advanced manufacturing and hard-tech firms associated with sub-sectors like aerospace and telecommunications – which are more densely clustered in and around Bristol – are able to capitalise on these clustering effects to a greater extent than other tech companies, resulting in Bristol’s very high digital tech turnover per employee.”
Tech Nation research has found that there is a productivity power path from London to the mouth of the River Severn, running along the M4 corridor and spreading to Southampton and Portsmouth. This helps Bristol and the neighbouring city of Bath, in particular, by connecting them to the established tech firms of Reading and the Thames Valley.
MB Christie, chief operating officer at Tech Nation, said: “Bristol is one of the most exciting tech clusters in the country right now and has the most productive sector when measured by digital turnover by employee. There is a fantastic talent pool here, fed by the universities of Bristol and Bath as well as the engineering heritage in the area. It’s exciting to see Bristol’s startups pushing ahead in semi-conductor technology and in quantum computing.”
Tom Carter, co-founder and CTO of Ultrahaptics, said: “Ultrahaptics was founded in 2013 based on technology developed at Bristol University so it was natural for us to base the company here. We love being surrounded by a long heritage of innovation and technology and the quality of life here in the South West has also helped us to recruit talented individuals.”
Nigel Toon, co-founder and CEO of Graphcore, said: “We have attracted some of the world’s biggest investors while being based in Bristol. Our connections with London and with Silicon Valley are strong and we are proud of being at the centre of one of the most exciting and dynamic innovation hubs in the UK right now.”
Serrie Chapman co-founder of Women’s Tech Hub, said: “Like the digital tech industry across the UK, the South West industry is male dominated. Women’s Tech Hub is an organisation that works to support and encourage women and gender non-conforming people to think afresh about tech and how they get into that industry. We are building a trusted support network for women in the South West either running a tech company or thinking of creating a tech startup, as well as helping women and girls to develop the skills to get into the industry.”