Birmingham set for rapid tech growth as city embraces 5G trial

Birmingham is building on its engineering history and success in manufacturing with a new focus on digital technology, according to Tech Nation.

The Midlands city is seeing entrepreneurs choose to base themselves in the West Midlands region and is primed for rapid growth in the next few years, as West Midlands mayor Andy Street steps up the focus on the digital technology sector.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Birmingham had beaten off other regions to become the UK’s first large-scale test bed for 5G technology.
The technology, which provides broadband speeds up to 100 x faster than 4G, could see buses, hospitals and the emergency services use 5G to better get information to customers and patients.

It will also encourage a new generation of start-ups to the area to take advantage of world-class streaming and broadband.

According to Tech Nation research, Birmingham’s digital tech sector grew steadily between 2006 and 2016, with a 351% increase in the number of businesses formed per year.

Between 2011 and 2015, Birmingham has had an average of 557 business births a year.

Turnover of the sector grew by 6% last year, outstripping the growth of the wider economy.

According to the Centre of Entrepreneurs, 12,108 businesses were started in Birmingham last year, more than in any local authority outside London.
The region also boasts one of the UK’s most diverse digital tech workforces, with 26% of workers having a BAME background, compared to a UK tech workforce average of 15%.

Tech Nation on Tour arrives at Fazeley Studios today (19 September) when entrepreneurs, founders and tech ecosystem experts will assemble to debate the opportunities for developing startups in the West Midlands.

Tech Nation sees Birmingham as a crucial node in the development of a national network to encourage ambitious entrepreneurs and startups right across the nation.

Data on Birmingham will be presented by Tech Nation’s insights team which will feed into a discussion on the challenges faced by local entrepreneurs and start-ups.

MB Christie, chief operations officer at Tech Nation, said: “Birmingham’s digital tech sector has been growing quickly but we anticipate even more growth is to come as investment is attracted to the region by new infrastructure including the trial of 5G networks.

“One of the most impressive stats about Birmingham is also that its talent pool is the second most diverse in the country (after London).

“This bodes well for companies that move or base themselves here, particularly when recruiting skilled staff is a challenge.”

Melissa Snover, CEO at Magic Candy Factory, chose to base her 3D printing business because of a 3D printing degree at Birmingham University. “We started our business here because it has excellent transport links to London and the rest of the UK and is surrounded by prestigious universities who specialise in 3D printing, as well as having many other creative and innovative startup businesses.

“It’s a helpful, thriving startup community and initiatives like the Midlands Engine Investment fund are really creating a buzz around the region.”

One of the region’s best-known digital tech companies is video games maker Codemasters, which listed on the UK AIM market in June, raising £185 million.
Headquartered in Leamington Spa, 28 miles from Birmingham, Codemasters is the company that creates official Formula One games and has helped to stimulate a network of gaming companies in the area.

Ross Spencer, head of marketing at Click Travel, a Birmingham next-generation travel management company which has recently attracted multi-million pound investment, said: “There’s a real confidence about the city now which is great to see.

“For Click Travel Birmingham is a great place to base a business that is outward looking and has ambitions to revolutionise business travel through embracing new technology.”

Tech Nation will also be launching Rising Stars, a new national competition for early-stage tech companies at the Birmingham event.

Rising Stars builds on the success of Northern Stars which has successfully supported over 30 companies in the last three years.

The competition aims to find the best tech start-ups from all across the UK and provide them with a great package of prizes to raise their profile and help them take their start-up to the next level.

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