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Last updated: 29 July 2021

The Best Places for Start-Ups in the UK

Where Should you Begin your Start-Up?

Best places for startups in the UK

UK remains one of the top spots for startups, as new entrepreneurs continue to flock to major cities. London is well-known for it’s large enterprise-culture, accounting for the largest number of businesses in March 2016, with 18.7% of the UK total. The growth of businesses in London accounts for 30.5% of total growth in the UK. but our findings show a large increase of startups outside of London. 

UK Cities and Start-up Culture

Between 2014 and 2015, UK business births have increased 9.3% from 351,000 to 383,000, this is a birth rate of 14.3% compared with a rate of 13.7% in 2014. London was found to be the city with the largest number of insolvencies  (61.1 per 10,000 population), considerably above the second ranked city Reading. In this report we investigated the best cities outside of london to launch a startup.

StartUp Britain is a government-backed national enterprise campaign, their data reveals that 342,927 new businesses registered at Companies House in January and June, compared with 608,110 for the whole of 2015, reaching a new record. After the success of 2016’s business growth, the central government has recognised that the UK’s cities are the engines of national economic growth, and that local leaders are best positioned to take decisions to make that growth even stronger. The UK is becoming a hotspot for new business development with an increase in the number of startups popping up across the UK.

Of course, some cities are more suitable for startups than others. There are a multitude of factors involved when it comes to creating a business from the ground up. In order to get a better idea of what places are best for new business, Market Inspector has categorised them based on a point-based ranking system, with points being distributed per category based on the position.

The first 3 get 10 point, the next 3 get 9 points, and so on. If 2 cities score the same amount of points, the one with the most winning categories gets the higher spot.

The list includes a number of factors which are relevant for any startup, which are the following.

    • New business created in 2015
    • Businesses that died in 2015
    • Total number of active businesses in 2015
    • Ratio of business births and deaths in 2015
    • Total population
    • 1 year survival percentage (for business started in 2010)
    • 5 year survival percentage (for business started in 2010)
    • Property prices
    • Average internet speed
    • Average weekly income

On this map you can find the best places for start-ups in the UK. 

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In this table you can see the amount of points each category scored for each factor and their total score and ranking. For the corresponding numbers and percentages check the table at the bottom of the page.

CityBirthsDeathsActiveBirth/death ratioCity population 1-year survival %5-year survival %Property prices in £Average download speed Mb/sWeekly income in £PointsRank
Reading 57394109359643
Leicester 74786737645910
Portsmouth 39275658945813
Warrington 48493746575716
Nottingham 66527542885320
Plymouth 2921510351014825

These are the top ranking places for start ups in the UK

1. Leeds

Market inspector’s start-up score: 66/100
New businesses in 2015: 4140
5 year survival: 41.7%
Average weekly income: 429.00£

Leeds has more than 6,000 small- and medium-size businesses, making up for more than half of employment in the city. In relation to new information gathered on business 'scale-ups', companies in Leeds have achieved three years of 20% growth in revenues and/or employees. Leeds is considered to be one of the UK’s most important centres for fast growing firms, coming in just behind London. In January 2011, Leeds was cited as one of five "cities to watch" by an article from the Centre for Cities.

2. Bristol

Market inspector’s start-up score: 65/100
New businesses in 2015: 2600
5 year survival: 42.3%
Average weekly income: 454.60£

Bristol is considered to be one of the eight largest regional English cities, making up the Core Cities Group. Bristol is ranked as a Gamma World City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, Bristol was ranked as Britain's most sustainable city according to Future's 2008 Sustainable Cities Index.

3. Reading

Market inspector’s start-up score: 64/100
New businesses in 2015:1290
5 year survival: 46.1%
Average weekly income: 486.10£

Reading is considered to be an important enterprise centre in the Thames Valley and in Southern England. The town is home to the headquarters of several British companies and the UK offices of foreign multinationals. Alongside this, it is considered to be a major retail centre.

4. Birmingham

Market inspector’s start-up score: 63/100
New businesses in 2015: 7060
5 year survival: 36.5%
Average weekly income:  395.00£

Birmingham comes in after Leeds as the the second largest centre outside London for employment in financial and other business services. It has been ranked as a Beta-World City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, coming in as the third highest ranking, after London and Manchester. Birmingham has a substantial metropolitan economy, in the United Kingdom it is the second largest with a GDP of $121.1bn (2014).

5. Edinburgh

Market inspector’s start-up score: 62/100
New businesses in 2015: 2975
5 year survival: 42%
Average weekly income:  472.40£

Edinburgh prides itself in having the strongest economy of any city in the United Kingdom outside London, along with the most professionals in the UK, which 43% of the population have a degree-level or professional qualification. It was named as “European Best Large City of the Future for Foreign Direct Investment and Best Large City for Foreign Direct Investment Strategy” in the Financial Times fDi magazine awards in 2013.

6. Brighton

Market inspector’s start-up score: 61/100
New businesses in 2015: 2000
5 year survival: 42.4%
Average weekly income:  522.90£

Brighton has over 9,600 registered companies, in a 2001, an article stated that Brighton is one of five "supercities for the future". Brighton in 2013, ranked as the third-highest place on the UK Vitality Index Report, this was a measurement of the economic strength of both towns and cities in the United Kingdom. Brighton being "among the top performing towns and cities on almost all" of the 20 measures utilised in this index.

7. Northampton

Market inspector’s start-up score: 61/100
New businesses in 2015: 2165
5 year survival: 41.6%
Average weekly income: 329.60£  

In 2006, Northampton developed a government expansion zone with considerable growth promoted by West Northamptonshire Development Corporation, which resulted in a series of regeneration schemes across the town, creating new business zones which fueled the economy.

8. Guildford

Market inspector’s start-up score: 60/100
New businesses in 2015: 930
5 year survival: 46.7%
Average weekly income: 564.00£  

Guildford is considered to be a thriving commercial town. In the 2011 Financial Times annual list of Top 500 Global Companies naming five major businesses with a significant presence within Guildford.

9. Sheffield

Market inspector’s start-up score: 60/100
New businesses in 2015: 2170
5 year survival: 43.1%
Average weekly income: 390.30£

Sheffield’s economy is currently going through a strong revival. The city was placed in the "UK Cities Monitor 2008" coming in among the top ten "best cities to locate a business today". Sheffield has the third and fourth place for best office location and best new call centre location. In the same report report, Sheffield ranked third place in relation to "greenest reputation" and second for availability of financial incentives.

10. Leicester

Market inspector’s start-up score: 59/100
New businesses in 2015: 1870
5 year survival: 38%
Average weekly income: 242.50£

Leicester has the largest economy in the East Midlands, a recent study by Emda/Experian estimated the GVA to be £15.3 billion. Leicester is second only to Bristol as the largest unitary authority city in England.

Best Cities for Start-ups in the UK

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11. Coventry

Market inspector’s start-up score: 58/100
New businesses in 2015: 1795
5 year survival: 38.3%
Average weekly income: 492.00£

The city of Coventry has moved away from manufacturing industries towards business services, finance, research, design and development. Coventry has a premier business park with that has an established community of nearly fifty companies located just five miles to the west of the growing City of Coventry.

12. Liverpool

Market inspector’s start-up score: 58/100
New businesses in 2015: 2365
5 year survival: 36%
Average weekly income: 405.70£

Liverpool's economy is one of the biggest within the UK, placed at the centre of the two major economies within the North West of England. In 2016, Liverpool’s GVA came in at £7.626 million, and a per capita figure of £17,489, which was above the North West average.The economy in Liverpool's has been seen to have the most development and growth since the mid-1990s. Liverpool's GVA is increased by 71.8% from the years 1995 to 2006, along side this, employment increasing 12% between 1998 and 2006.The GDP per capita was estimated to come in at $32,121 in 2014, in total the GDP comes in at $65.8 billion.

13. Portsmouth

Market inspector’s start-up score: 58/100
New businesses in 2015: 885
5 year survival: 38.7%
Average weekly income: 413.90£

The city is host to the European headquarters of IBM and the UK headquarters of Zurich Financial Services. The central location of Leicester's and good transport made it a great as distribution centre. Today the Southwestern city district is attracting new enterprises and manufacturing businesses.

14. Cambridge

Market inspector’s start-up score: 57/100
New businesses in 2015: 690
5 year survival: 48.9%
Average weekly income: 578.80£

Today Cambridge has a diverse economy, and is where the large Cambridge Business Park complex is located. Silicon Fen, also known as the Cambridge Cluster, is the largest distribution of high-tech businesses that focus on software, electronics and biotechnology. A large number of these businesses have connections with the prestigious University of Cambridge,  resulting in it being one of the most important technology centres in Europe.

15. Chelmsford

Market inspector’s start-up score: 57/100
New businesses in 2015: 1075
5 year survival: 54.8%
Average weekly income: 464.20£

Notable enterprises are basing themselves in the chelmsford Business Park at Boreham, which has become a centre for companies such as the Anderson Group and Global Marine Systems. Chelmsford city also has a lowest unemployment rate (1.6% in 2002) and a well-educated workforce, with 9% holding a degree or above (in 2002; British average: 7.1%).

16. Warrington

Market inspector’s start-up score: 57/100
New businesses in 2015: 1160
5 year survival: 38.5%
Average weekly income: 457.90£

The Omega Development Site near to the M62 on the Northern edge of Warrington is a new major business park that will be developed in stages over the next 30 years. 

17. Belfast

Market inspector’s start-up score: 55/100
New businesses in 2015: 1100
5 year survival: 40%
Average weekly income: 392.50£

Belfast remains a centre for industry and new enterprises are increasing. Belfast has been the fastest-growing economy of the thirty largest cities in the UK. According to The Times, Northern Ireland has the fastest-growing regional economy in the UK, with GDP increasing 1 per cent per annum faster than the rest of the UK. The service sector is vital to Northern Ireland's development and it is enjoying excellent growth.

18. Stockport

Market inspector’s start-up score: 55/100
New businesses in 2015: 1605
5 year survival: 40.4%
Average weekly income: 441.90£

The Metropolitan Borough of Stockport is a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester in North West England. Stockport is 10 km from Manchester, making it a great place for new enterprises. Home to heritage, innovation and a diverse business community, it is also home to some of the world's leading brands and businesses including the European Headquarters of Adidas, MAN Diesel & Turbo UK, Starkey Hearing Technologies, and Stanley.

19. Cardiff

Market inspector’s start-up score: 54/100
New businesses in 2015: 1730
5 year survival: 40.2%
Average weekly income: 444.90£

As the capital city of Wales, Cardiff is the main fueling factor in the growth in the Welsh economy. Besides the fact that the population of Cardiff is only making up for 10% of the Welsh population, Cardiff’s economy makes up nearly 20% of Welsh GDP and 40% of the city's workforce.

20. Nottingham

Market inspector’s start-up score: 53/100
New businesses in 2015: 1325
5 year survival: 38.5%
Average weekly income: 472.00£

Nottingham in 2015 was ranked to be in the top 10 UK cities for job growth (2004–13), in both the public and private sectors. As well in 2015, it was revealed that more new companies were started in Nottingham in 2014/15 compared to other UK cities, with a 68% yearly growth increase.

21. Glasgow

Market inspector’s start-up score: 52/100
New businesses in 2015: 3115
5 year survival: 32.4%
Average weekly income: 430.60£

Glasgow is known to have the largest economy in Scotland, it is known to be the hub of the metropolitan area of West Central Scotland. Glasgow city has the third highest GDP Per capita compared to other cities in the UK (after London and Edinburgh). The city itself sustains more than 410,000 jobs in over 12,000 companies. They created over 153,000 jobs in the city between 2000 and 2005, a growth rate of 32%. Glasgow's yearly economic growth rate of 4.4% is now 2nd to London's.

22. Manchester

Market inspector’s start-up score: 52/100
New businesses in 2015: 3975
5 year survival: 37.2%
Average weekly income: 410.70£

The economy in Manchesters developed relatively strongly between 2002 and 2012, where growth was 2.3% above the national average. Manchester's GDP came in at $88.3bn (2012) the larger metropolitan economy is the third-largest in the United Kingdom.

23. Newcastle

Market inspector’s start-up score: 50/100
New businesses in 2015: 1220
5 year survival: 41.4%
Average weekly income: 423.00£

Newcastle is in partnership with nearby Gateshead, the cultural focus for North East England. Being part of Tyneside, Newcastle's economy makes up the sum of £13 billion of UK’s GVA. Newcastle's Central Business District is in the centre of the city, bounded by Haymarket, Central Station and the Quayside areas.

24. Oxford

Market inspector’s start-up score: 48/100
New businesses in 2015: 660
5 year survival: 41.9%
Average weekly income: 500.20£

The Oxford economy is diverse, areas includes publishing, manufacturing, and science as well and education, research along with tourism. Companies often draw staff from the pool of Oxford University graduates, especially for EFL education, who are using the Oxford location as a selling point.

25. Plymouth

Market inspector’s start-up score: 48/100
New businesses in 2015: 795
5 year survival: 37.3%
Average weekly income: 370.70£ 

In 2003, Plymouth Council undertook a project of urban redevelopment called the "Vision for Plymouth". This had a resulted in an increase in the population to 300,000 and the need to build 33,000 dwellings to keep up with the growth.

26. Swansea

Market inspector’s start-up score: 46/100
New businesses in 2015: 845
5 year survival: 36%
Average weekly income: 384.10£

Economic activity and employment rates in Swansea came in above the Welsh average in October 2008 along with the GVA per head in Swansea, which was £14,302, coming in at 4%, which is above the average in Wales.

27. Aberdeen

Market inspector’s start-up score: 43/100
New businesses in 2015: 1045
5 year survival: 46.4%
Average weekly income: 427.70£

Aberdeen is Scotland's 3rd most populated city and the United Kingdom's 37th most populous built-up area. In 2011, Aberdeen was stated to be the best placed city for growth in Britain, as the country began to emerge from the recent economic downturn.Alongside this 29 of Scotland's top 100 businesses are located in Aberdeen with an employment rate of 77.9%, making it the 2nd highest UK city for employment.

28. Southampton

Market inspector’s start-up score: 43/100
New businesses in 2015: 1280
5 year survival: 37.1%
Average weekly income: 445.00£

According to 2004 figures, Southampton contributes around £4.2 bn to the regional economy annually. Southampton's strong economy is promoting redevelopment. Plans are being put in place for three towers that will will be 23 storeys high, along with the building of apartments, offices and shops.

29. Hull

Market inspector’s start-up score: 42/100
New businesses in 2015: 860
5 year survival: 34.7%
Average weekly income: 362.40£

Recently, Hull’s retail sector, tourism, the arts and further and higher education sectors have played an important part in the process of economic regeneration, raising the profile of the city. 2009 there was an estimation that businesses in Hull have a yearly turnover of almost £8 billion.

30. Canterbury

Market inspector’s start-up score: 41/100
New businesses in 2015: 660
5 year survival: 40.8%
Average weekly income: 431.50£

Canterbury district retains approximately 4,761 businesses, and has up to 60,000 full and part-time employees. The values of these businesses was estimated to be around £1.3 billion in 2001, making the district the second largest economy in Kent. Unemployment rates in the Canterbury decreased significantly in 2001 and continues to drop.

The complete data of all the ranked cities:

CityBirths DeathsActiveBirth/death ratiocity population 1-year survival %5-year survival %Property prices in £Average download speed Mb/sWeekly income in £Rank
Leicester 18701095108901,71283969873817938047,8424,510
Nottingham 132593086001,4230202986,338,526936551,847220
Plymouth 79558056101,372411249037,319190355,4370,714
Portsmouth 88553055951,6724536086,638,716372953,7413,911
Reading 129068070551,9022613389,546,124047547486,13
Warrington 116067078001,7317014887,238,518473745,8457,914
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