As tech investment soars, is Cambridge the UK’s new Silicon Valley?

Tech investment in Cambridge reached figures of more than £3,361 per head in 2019, far exceeding London where investment was just over £840.25 per head, according to a new report produced by sales recruitment specialist Pareto Law. These figures come despite the capital having more than 51,000 digital tech businesses, which generated over £64 billion in turnover in 2019.

Cambridge has been dubbed the UK’s next Silicon Valley as a result, although its economy and population is much smaller than London’s. The university city, when looked at per thousand people, comes out on top.

Cambridge also appears to attract more tech businesses — boasting a 60% year-on-year increase in terms of start-ups per thousand people, compared to the capital.

Cambridge vs London.

What’s driving Cambridge’s success?

Driving Cambridge’s success in the tech world is the city’s specialism in biotechnology, with 46 biotechnology firms in the city.

Cambridge Science Park is home to companies like Johnson Matthey and Astra Zeneca, who moved their global headquarters to Cambridge in 2016.

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The UK’s tech hubs

However, Cambridge is not the only city developing unique specialisms. Scotland’s capital Edinburgh is also a financial and tech hub, making the city a prime location for blockchain firms to set up shop.

Northern hotspot Manchester is fast becoming a jewel of the UK as well as the North, thanks to its growing speciality in delivery firms, with companies such as based there.

Further south in Brighton, the seaside resort is gaining a reputation for augmented reality. Businesses such as Digital Catapult host events here and Sumo Digital have opened a studio in the city.

 City specialisms

• Cambridge — Biotechnology
• Brighton — Augmented reality
• Edinburgh — Blockchain
• Manchester — Delivery

Investment in the Cambridge tech scene can also go some way to explain its push towards the top of the UK tech food chain.

In terms of investment per tech type, deep tech start-ups — companies that develop products or services based on new scientific breakthroughs — was the top area for investment in 2019, with £3 billion invested. This was followed by artificial intelligence — with £2 billion worth of investment — and delivery — with £1.1billion. Biotechnology and blockchain complete the top five.

Top five cities for tech investment per 1000 people

• Cambridge — 3.09
• Glasgow — 1.90
• London — 1.87
• Manchester — 1.68
• Oxford — 1.64

Jonathan Fitchew, CEO of Pareto Law, commented: “It’s great to see the nation’s tech scene developing so well. The UK now boasts pockets of the country that are becoming renowned for their tech specialities, including our home in the North West which, thanks to the exciting start-ups in Manchester are world leaders in the delivery sector.

“It’s especially positive to see cities outside of the capital rising to compete with, and sometimes surpass, London. Cambridge emerging as the UK’s Silicon Valley is a prime example of how successful technology hubs can develop and attract the best candidates outside of London. The impact of venture capitalists investing rapidly in the tech industry is helping support the growth and expansion of the industry in the UK.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...