A capital plan to make Edinburgh the best place to be when it comes to small business growth, writes Frank Ross
EDINBURGH is ranked as one of the top cities in the UK for business start-ups. According to Start Up UK, which looks at diverse data and excludes London, the capital is ranked number two, beaten only by Manchester.
The capital is a city where businesses survive and grow. This is backed up by recent figures published by the City of Edinburgh Council which show that 82 per cent assisted by Business Gateway continue to trade after three years. This compares to the national average of 65 per cent. Councillor Frank Ross, convener of the economy committee, spells out the secret of the city’s success. Businesses employing fewer than 250 employees make up 94 per cent of the total in the city and contribute almost £10 billion to Edinburgh’s economy each year. This means that we have to work hard to ensure that small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) are supported to grow and have improved digital connectivity to allow them to increase their profitability.
If companies are going to start-up in Edinburgh and grow their business, good quality workspace is also a must.
Modern industrial space is in much demand in Edinburgh and we are helping to address this issue using the council’s strategic development fund to invest £2m to develop small starter units in Sighthill, with the potential to create up to 30 new jobs.
Edinburgh also boasts some 15 business incubators, each providing vital early stage support to new businesses across a diverse range of sectors. The council set up its own creative exchange which supports creative and digital business.
Since opening in July 2013 it has supported more than 80 businesses. It currently provides around 110 individual workspaces and is home to 36 companies. The facilityhas been so successful that we are expanding to provide a further 40 workspaces. Even more exciting, in September the first Edinburgh-Shenzhen incubator project, which encourages business collaboration and innovation between companies in Edinburgh and Shenzhen, will see up to ten businesses from China moving into the space.
To further help support the city’s incubators we have established Interspace, a collaborative online portal where new businesses can search for supported office space by facility, sector or area.
Another attraction of starting your business in Edinburgh is the talented workforce companies can draw on. The percentage of the workforce in the city with a degree-level qualification or equivalent has risen from 46 per cent in 2013 to 54 per cent in 2015 according to our Edinburgh by Numbers report published in May.
Edinburgh also has excellent connectivity which is continually improving and was named the best broadband connected city in the UK by Santander City Index in 2013.
There is still more we need to do, however, to improve our digital connectivity to help businesses grow.
CityFibre and Commsworld have teamed up to transform the capital into a Gigabit City. Work has already started on the Edinburgh Core, a new pure fibre network which will allow businesses to access ultra-fast, gigabit speed connectivity, giving them a huge technological advantage. In less than two months, more than 220 businesses have expressed interest in taking services over the Edinburgh Core.
For SMEs in Edinburgh who don’t already have a fast connection they are able to apply for vouchers, which help to connect them to superfast broadband. Vouchers are awarded to businesses to help cover the installation costs of connecting to superfast broadband services up to the value of £3,000. Funding for the project is part of the UK government’s £150 million super connected cities programme being delivered locally through Business Gateway.
One of the fastest growing sectors in Edinburgh is technology, which is buzzing at the moment. This was recognised by Google when it named Edinburgh as the second most tech savvy city in the UK.
In April, we signed a partnership agreement with London to raise the profile of financial technology hubs and the Council is helping to identify and promote the FinTech and wider financial services sector and expertise within Edinburgh.
Edinburgh hosts a wide range of successful tech companies which started small in the city including Unicorn companies Skyscanner, FanDuel as well as Craneware, FreeAgent, Kotikan, Amazon and Rockstar North.
From a council perspective, these tech companies are very important as they are encouraging dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship. But, perhaps most importantly they’re creating jobs. And not just any jobs, these are highly skilled jobs that are helping to drive the city’s economy. If you are starting a business, Edinburgh is undoubtedly the place to be.
• Councillor Frank Ross is economy convener at Edinburgh City Council www.edinburgh.gov.uk