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  May 20th, 2016 | Written by

Which Cities are the UK’s Most Business Friendly?

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  • London may be one of the world’s financial capitals but it’s not necessarily the best for growing businesses.
  • Served by four universities, the UK city of Leeds is top of the league for its graduate population.
  • Bristol has experienced unprecedented population growth as a result of regeneration schemes and economic development.

When it comes to house-hunting, the three most important factors are location, location, location – and the same goes for establishing a business. Entrepreneurs and employers have a range of considerations when setting up, from overheads and internet connectivity to access to skilled labor, transport networks and economic incentives. London may be one of the world’s financial capitals, and home of the Silicon Roundabout tech hub, but it’s not necessarily the most conducive base for growing businesses. So where is?

The top 10 UK cities for business, according to an analysis from Sungard Availability Services are:

10. Sheffield

With internet connectivity vital to today’s always-on economy, Sheffield ranks highly for its high speed broadband, which allows local businesses to deploy the latest online technologies. The city’s employment rate of 70 percent suggests the local economy is marginally underperforming, although with a 39-percent reduction in job seekers and a 54-percent drop in youth unemployment over the last five years, signs of recovery are promising.

9. Leeds

Served by four universities, Leeds is top of the league for its graduate population, assuring local employers of a steady stream of skilled recruits. It also compares favorably with the UK’s other major cities in terms of office rental, with businesses paying an average of £110 per square foot, compared to £405 per square foot in London. With sluggish broadband, Leeds could prove problematic for internet-reliant firms, although the Superfast West Yorkshire scheme is set to improve the area’s network infrastructure.

8. Northampton

Northampton’s high in-work rate ensures the city has a plentiful supply of talent to power local businesses. However, with just 38 percent employed in the top occupational group, businesses may struggle to fill professional and managerial positions. The Midlands city boasts one of the highest start-up survival rates in the country, thanks to initiatives like the Northamptonshire Growth Hub, which provides advice, training and networking events to new business owners.

7. York

The Viking city offers startups the best chance of survival, with almost seven out of 10 new businesses succeeding. Schemes such as the Whyte Knight fund provide low-interest, unsecured loans and mentoring services to the city’s entrepreneurs. York currently scores poorly for internet connectivity, but the Superfast North Yorkshire project looks set to transform broadband provision by the end of 2016, providing a £220m boost to the local economy in the process.

6. Bristol

Since 2002, Bristol has experienced unprecedented population growth as a result of regeneration schemes and economic development, with a density of over 4,000 people per square kilometre. The South West region has the highest employment rates in the UK. However, with office space averaging £200 per square foot, Bristol is one of the more expensive places to base a business – a reflection of its thriving local economy and living standards.

5. Edinburgh

For those looking to control overheads, Edinburgh offers the most affordable office space at just £66 per square foot. The forthcoming £850m redevelopment of the city’s St. James Centre will feed growing demand for premises. Edinburgh has the lowest proportion of graduates at just under a third of the population, but talent is of high caliber, with the University consistently ranked among the world top 50 institutions. The city also has the lowest crime rate among our top ten.

4. London

While the capital remains the UK’s de facto tech hub, it scores poorly for start-up survival rates due to the prohibitive cost of office space and fierce competition from established businesses. However, firms in London benefit from well-developed transport links, a high concentration of skilled labour, and proximity to customers and partners.

3. Brighton

Brighton and Hove businesses have one of the lowest rates of cyber security breaches in the UK, a key advantage in today’s digital economy. The desirable and diverse urban area has a high population density, providing a good concentration of employees, customers and resources for businesses to succeed. At £202 per square foot, office space is surprisingly competitive for the south-east and less than half the rates in London, which is an hour away by train.

2. Oxford

Served by two world-class universities, the city has a high proportion of workers in professional, managerial and associate positions. Perhaps surprisingly, Oxford has one of the highest crime rates among our top ten cities, which may deter recruitment. With the best broadband service among our ten cities, Oxford is fast becoming a hub for tech start-ups and businesses that rely heavily on digital services.

1. Cambridge

Winning the race against their collegiate rivals by a length, the Silicon Fen entices cutting-edge businesses with excellent transport links, enterprise zones and science parks. Its commercial property market is one of the busiest yet most affordable outside central London. Two world-class Universities provide a steady stream of graduates to feed demand for skilled employees, and a raft of entrepreneurial initiatives offer excellent prospects for long-term business survival.

Keith Tilley, is executive vice president for global sales and customer services management at Sungard Availability Services. The original Sungard analysis can be found here: Top 10 UK Cities for Business” study, Sungard Availabiltiy Services, April 2016.