Edinburgh top amid surge in digital businesses

Codebase's Jamie Coleman welcomed the report. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Codebase's Jamie Coleman welcomed the report. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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EDINBURGH has emerged as Scotland’s high-tech hotspot with the number of “digital companies” growing by a third in three years, a study today reveals.

The capital is singled out in the Tech Nation report, said to be the first major analysis of Britain’s digital technology clusters.

In addition to the 33 per cent rise in the number of companies between 2010 and 2013, Edinburgh supports just over 17,100 “digital jobs”, according to the research.

It found particular strengths in software development, financial technology and education technology with extensive use of social networks within the Edinburgh digital cluster. Access to talent was also rated highly.

Across the UK, some 1.46 million people are currently employed in the digital industries, with job growth in the sector predicted to outperform all other occupation categories by the end of the decade.

Today’s study, which was developed by Westminster-backed body Tech City UK in partnership with corporate information outfit DueDil, found that half of the digital businesses operating in the UK had been founded since 2008. The report is published just days after The Scotsman revealed that Scotland’s technology sector was almost rivalling London for growth in start-ups.

Nixon Williams, the contractor ­accountancy provider, found that since 2009 the number of IT businesses in London jumped by almost 39 per cent, from 25,085 to 34,750. However, Scotland was right on its heels with growth of 32.3 per cent in start-ups, going from 4,930 to 6,520 tech enterprises since 2009.

Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech City UK, said: “I believe our findings will help inform policy-makers, investors and the wider business community about the sheer breadth and depth of the UK’s digital prowess.

“This is the first time that the UK’s digital clusters have been so thoroughly analysed, revealing their strengths and importance to the digital economy. It shines a powerful spotlight on how far we’ve come in the digital tech sector, and where we are heading.”

Damian Kimmelman, founder of DueDil, which has developed an interactive guide to tens of thousands of digital companies, added: “The data… shows that the opportunity for digital to change the economy isn’t just coming from tech giants such as Google and Amazon.”

Reacting to the study’s findings, Jamie Coleman, the founder and managing director of Edinburgh-based tech incubator Codebase, said: “Key computing science strengths in areas such as machine learning, natural language processing and cloud architecture in the Edinburgh universities have helped create a developer talent pool which has fed the growth of companies such as SkyScanner, FanDuel, Craneware, Cloudsoft and more.”

The Tech Nation report signals the start of a UK-wide initiative delivered by Tech City UK, which was started in 2010 to support the cluster of firms centred around a junction on the boundary of the London boroughs of Hackney and Islington, colloquially known as “Silicon Roundabout”.

Among the study’s other findings, 74 per cent of digital companies were found to operate outside of London while 90 per cent of businesses anticipated their revenues will rise in 2015. Britain’s other high-density tech clusters are centred around Berkshire, Brighton and Cambridge.

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