Start-up Cities Index 2015: The UK’s top 25 cities to start a business

Which city tops our second ranking of the most enterprising cities outside of London? Find out where the top 25 places to start and grow a business are...

Outside London, where is the best place to start and grow a business? Read on to find out which cities made our second annual Start-up Cities Index…

We’ve identified and examined the most important factors new businesses need to consider when selecting the right location to start or grow a business.

To make up our second index of the top cities for enterprise outside of the capital, following the Start-up Cities Index 2014, we’ve updated our city by city statistics using official data released over the last 12 months on everything from business survival rates, house prices, and broadband speeds.

This data then comes together to provide a detailed picture of exactly what each city has, or hasn’t, got to offer start-up entrepreneurs and, therefore, which city is the best place to start a business in 2016.

Selected for the scale of their business activity, population, and the importance each city has to its region’s levels of economic prosperity, our 25 cities stretch to each corner of the United Kingdom.

We purposefully left London out of the index – not because the capital would necessarily come out top, but because of the sheer scale of the city in comparison to others. Instead we’ll examine London more closely in the near future.

With Newcastle in the north, Southampton in the South, Plymouth in the West, Norwich in the East, Aberdeen in Scotland, Belfast in Northern Ireland and Swansea in Wales, this index stretches across the entirety of the Kingdom’s shores.

Action point:
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We also factored in’s own geo-location traffic stats, which served to demonstrate the level of start-up activity against other cities given the number of people utilising the site’s start-up guides, small business news, and success stories.


The most exhaustive report of its kind, we researched and analysed the level of business support, the availability and qualifications of employable talent, finance and grants, quality of life, and the level of start-up and business growth activity which includes city by city business survival rates.

In practice this meant collating data on the following:

  • Business activity – the active business population, business survival rates over a five-year period, start-up ‘births’ and business ‘deaths’
  • Geographical factors – population, airports, motorways, large-scale infrastructure projects, ethnic diversity
  • Talent – universities, skilled workforce qualified at NVQ level 4 and above, average full-time weekly earnings
  • Business support – local enterprise partnerships, Enterprise Zones, science parks, Catapult Centres, universities business services, accelerators and incubators, Smart City status
  • Commercial premises – office stock availability and quality, co-work spaces, high-speed broadband average speeds
  • Finance – regionally focused grants, local angel investment networks, regional government funding
  • Quality of life – average house prices, crime rates per 1,000 of a city’s population, local visitor sites and attractions to note

We also spoke to and interviewed start-up businesses in every city, asking them why they’re great for starting up, the support they sought, the ease of accessing finance to grow, what their cities could do better to foster business growth, where they go to network and entertain, and even the best place for a company night out.

There were one or two data sets we were unable to collect such as retail footfall statistics (data which requires very deep pockets to acquire) but we’re confident this is the most comprehensive report on enterprising cities. Each city profile shares the best of what we found, including links to the most valuable resources.

And once we had everything in place we applied our very secret formula to come up with our final ranking, which involved applying a multi-criterion weighting to score our cities on the aforementioned factors.

To have made our final 25 is achievement enough, but we fully expect in future years to see cities rise and fall as some enterprise ecosystems develop and grow while others diminish.

It’s impossible to state categorically that one city is a better guarantor of start-up success, just as one business embedded deep within a rural setting may prosper where a city-dwelling venture peer may fail fast. What we can see are the conditions that are required to give a start-up business the best chance of success. And that is what you’ll see here.

So which cities made our final 25 and where do they rank? Click below to discover the answers.



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