Silicon Cities: A map of the UK's clusters
Aberdeen has strengths in technology related to the oil and gas industries, with innovative, medium-sized technology companies such as Tritech working alongside giants including BP and Shell.
‘Silicon Glen’ is centred on Edinburgh and Glasgow with expertise in high-technology manufacturing, ICT, and Artificial Intelligence, and the presence of companies including Amazon, Cisco, Oracle, Skyscanner and Freescale.
The area around Belfast and Newry has been dubbed the ‘Emerald Valley’, with key strengths in fields such as advanced manufacturing, renewable energy and connected health.
Liverpool is known for its strengths in BioHealth, gaming, and digital advertising.
Cardiff is strong in technologies related to healthcare and biosciences.
Bristol and Bath (‘Silicon Gorge’) has significant strengths in semiconductors, military hardware, software and robotics, arguably making it the closest cluster to Silicon Valley in terms of specialisation.
Brighton is known for its gaming, creative, and web companies.
Tech City’s specialism has turned out to be the development of web- and app-based digital products covering sectors including gaming, digital media and fintech (financial technology). The cluster has received a significant amount of support from government, starting with a speech by the Prime Minister in 2010 in which he set out his agenda to turn London into ‘one of the world’s great technology centres’. The government’s backing has included frequent visits from government ministers; the establishment of the Tech City Investment Organisation (now Tech City UK); efforts to raise awareness about the cluster domestically and internationally; and encouragement for large investors to consider the area.
In the highly competitive world of Formula 1 racing, a significant number of the world’s leading engineering teams have based themselves in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire – an area dubbed ‘Motorsport Valley’. Eight of the 11 Formula 1 teams, including Red Bull, Lotus, Mercedes, Williams, Caterham, Marussia and McLaren, together with their suppliers, are within 80 minutes’ drive of Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix.
The lack of public fanfare and government attention for Cambridge compared with London’s Tech City can in part be explained by the fact that the majority of its principal companies sell to other businesses rather than to individual consumers. Instead, Cambridge has focused on developing its own networks. Cambridge benefits hugely from the presence of its internationally-renowned university in terms of research, the creation of spin outs, and also in providing a highly-educated pool of workers to draw from. One in five recent Cambridge graduates works or studies in the region.
Medical technology has been an area of specialism for Leeds in particular, with over 100 businesses employing 3,500 staff in the field. Home to the Department of Health’s northern office and specifically its IT administrative function, both the private and public sector have invested in health innovation hubs where the NHS, private sector and academia can collaborate. Digital industries, meanwhile, are responsible for almost two-fifths of employment in Sheffield, with most firms clustered in the city centre. Leeds has the largest number of people employed in the digital and creative industries outside of London, with nearly 6,000 businesses employing over 35,000 people. Between both regions, particularly strong employment growth has been seen in software development, electronic publishing and computer games.
In Salford, MediaCity is Europe’s first purpose-built business hub for the creative and digital industries, and is home to the BBC, ITV as well as dozens of other media companies. The area also has significant strengths in life sciences and materials science, helped to a large degree by research at the University of Manchester. The life sciences industry provides £4.7billion in GVA to the Manchester City Region. Added to that, Manchester has strengths in its technology and communications industry, primarily based in Manchester Science Park.
With a focus on software and gaming, both Newcastle and nearby Sunderland are working to make the North East a major technology hub. The North East is developing a reputation for IT-based back office functions, including for private sector organisations such as EE, British Airways and Balfour Beattie, as well as government department such as HMRC and DWP. An area of particular excellence is video games development (and related activities in the supply chain, such as animation) represented by firms like Ubisoft Reflections, CCP Games and Eutechnyx. Startups, meanwhile, are being encouraged by leading accelerators such as Ignite100, while multinationals such as Accenture have been drawn to the area due to its talented workforce.

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