We explore how Salford has become the startup capital of the UK
The world of business can change in the blink of an eye, and well-established companies are increasingly being overshadowed by ambitious startups looking to make that big break. The generic image that most of us have of these startups is young London techies in their modern offices, trying to stay on top of the competitive markets in the capital. However, according to various studies the innovators of today increasingly reside in the streets and offices of Salford. Perhaps shockingly, London, Birmingham and Leeds were nowhere to be seen amongst DueDil’s top five startup growth hotspots in the UK, with first place going to Salford. Between 2016 and 2017, it saw an 85% increase in new companies, but what has caused Salford’s business boom?
Moving away from big cities: why Salford?
The stats show that Salford has become a hub for tech startups and creatives, and that the North is now home to some of the UK’s biggest digital companies. This is a process that began in 2003 when the government created the Communications Act, specifying that the country’s main broadcasters had to make a certain percentage of their shows outside London. This caused many companies to head north, creating a bigger demand for skills and putting northern cities on the map as tech powerhouses fuelled by young talent. Presently, only 30% of the UK’s digital tech investment goes to London-based businesses.
The establishment of MediaCityUK has brought huge benefits to the area, and it arguably sparked the startup revolution in Salford. Since it was given the go-ahead in 2007, much of the BBC has moved to MediaCityUK, along with parts of the ITV Studios. In 2016, £1 billion was invested in its expansion, bringing further business to the city. There are various professionals rubbing shoulders with the broadcast companies; The Pie Factory and The Greenhouse are home to a range of digital and creative startups, alongside financial and media businesses. With constant plans for expansion and companies from many sectors relocating to the North, there is an ever-increasing sense of promise for startup founders
As Salford’s startups take national and international markets by storm, other companies are making efforts to cater to the progress in the area. Vodafone has developed a Digital Innovation Hub in the city, which is comprised of a working space, a web of skilled tech experts providing advice, and plenty of opportunities for startups to utilise new tech for themselves. This includes 5G, which offers the quickest connection to the internet developed to date. 5G allows startups to achieve almost zero latency, meaning that there will be little to no delay between devices. This could change the future of mobile and internet technology, and put these startups ahead of the competition.
A report carried out by Vodafone showed that 60% of startups – from across retail and hospitality, construction, professional services, financial services and media and digital sectors – could benefit from developments in 5G, and over half of them expected the developments to change the way that their business operated. A similar percentage of business owners were eagerly awaiting the roll out of 5G, and the overall feeling was that it would provide breakthroughs for many companies. Gaming startups, which are prevalent throughout the Salford area, are one of the sectors that have benefitted from 5Gs implementation.
Not only does Vodafone’s Digital Innovation Hub give people access to 5G technology, but it also serves as a testament to Salford’s progress, and allows likeminded people to push their ideas forward in the best possible environment. The recent investment and the current startup culture is hoped to bring new business to the area, and the overall ethos here means that startups can work alongside these companies to ensure that they are developing their tech and marketing effectively. A general feeling of co-creation has been fostered in the city – which many aspiring entrepreneurs believe is lacking in London – only adding to Salford’s appeal as a strong, forward-looking community.
The future of Salford
The MediaCityUK development in Salford undoubtedly brought attention to an area full of untapped potential, which would have otherwise been overshadowed by the spectre of London business. However, as some suggest that the companies in the capital have been taking their eye off the ball, it seems that the startup statistics of Salford, and many of its northern counterparts, are only going to get better. As more businesses relocate to the city and work alongside one another, the area shows no signs of slowing down. Whilst Salford may seem like a dark horse in digital tech and creative industries, it is a symbol for what the North and its ambitious young people can achieve, and will achieve in the future.