December 12, 2013
We can now be very confident that the UK economy is on an enduring upward path. We can also be sure that the UK that emerges from five years of recession will be very different to the one that entered it. And on that score things look pretty promising too, because we have the skills and talent needed in some of the world’s most in-demand sectors such as digital media, banking, software development, telecoms and publishing. In fact a recent report from Deloitte says that London employs more people in these and similar knowledge-based sectors than any other country in the world. But while London has an inevitable tendency to grab these sorts of headlines, it’s also great to acknowledge that London doesn’t have a monopoly on this pool of talent, and may even be less attractive as a base for some firms.
For example, depending on how they are defined there are around 1,500 technology companies in Cambridge employing 50,000 people. Media, creative and tech companies are thriving across the central belt of Scotland in ‘Silicon Glen’. Greater Manchester has its own creative hotspot centred on Media City in Salford. And, as we have highlighted before, along the M4 corridor you will find the headquarters of firms like Microsoft, Oracle, Ericsson, Vodafone, O2, Citrix, Dell, Huawei, Lexmark, LG, Novell, Nvidia, Panasonic, SAP and Symantec not to mention the countless other smaller businesses, consultants and freelancers that call this part of the world home.
Travel slightly further west and you find what has become known as Silicon Gorge which takes in Bristol, Gloucester, Bath, Swindon and Exeter and is home to creative and technology firms as diverse as Aardman, IMDb, Intel, Toshiba and NVIDIA. These firms do not locate here by accident of course. They do so because the talent, infrastructure, links and resources they need are available locally. Bristol claims to have the strongest digital media supply chain in England outside of London and has been named as a ‘hot-spring’ of innovation by the McKinsey World Economic Forum.
The implications of this hothousing are already apparent in the market for commercial l property. A BNP Paribas survey earlier this year predicted that in the technology, media and telecoms sector, office take-up in the UK will reach 4.65m sq ft by the end of 2014. It won’t all be provided by London, because a limited supply of appropriate office space, high rents and other factors are focussing more and more attention on the alternatives.
The upshot is that while London grabs all the headlines when it comes to the creative and tech industries, they are thriving around the country. We should be very proud that the UK is home not only to these businesses but the hundreds of thousands of talented people that are the foundation of their success.
Charles Marks is Managing Director of office design and fit-out company Fresh. www.freshworkspace.com