A recent study from Quality Formations has ranked 69 of the United Kingdom’s cities by how attractive they are for starting a new company. Overall Derby came top and unsurprisingly the quality of local broadband plays an important part, both in terms of the best and worst cities.
The company formation agent produced the table by marking each UK city on eight criteria: commercial property (rent costs, availability etc.), energy, virtual office services, public transport, broadband service (average download speed), workforce demographics, access to finance (e.g. available grants) and quality of life (e.g. home rental prices, crime, affordable childcare).
Apparently subcategories, such as broadband download speeds and the current availability of prime office space, were all scored out of ten in order to help create an all-encompassing national league table. The broadband speed data was sourced from Cable.co.uk, although crucially speedtests are not a reliable reflection of the underlying availability of even faster connections (we’ve highlighted availability on some of the below examples).
Otherwise it’s important to point out that sometimes cities with a thriving business focused local economy aren’t actually the best for starting a new company. For example, Aberdeen (Scotland) was ranked a lowly 66th despite being the UK’s oil capital and having numerous industrial successes, but this also means that the cost of starting and maintaining a company in the city “has become simply untenable for many small business owners.”
The Best Cities
Overall Derby (Derbyshire, England) topped the table because it is “by far the most affordable, accessible and supportive city in the UK to launch a new startup” and it’s especially strong in the tech sector (12% of its workforce are employed in hi-tech industry, which is double most other cities).
Virtual office services were also found to be extremely cheap in Derby (£55 per month) and typical broadband download speeds tended to hover around 24Mbps (Megabits per second). In fairness the general availability of superfast broadband networks in Derby are also nearly universal.
Elsewhere the best city in Scotland was found to be Stirling (ranked 8th overall), although it only delivered typical download speeds of around 14Mbps and we note that the local availability of superfast broadband is only just pushing above the 70% mark (clearly broadband wasn’t a prime factor here).
However spare a thought for poor Wales and its “top” city of Newport, which ranks 28th overall and thus sits roughly middle. The city did reasonably well thanks to its affordable commercial property and typical average download speeds of around 20Mbps, but it still sits mid-table due to problems in other categories. We also note that local superfast broadband availability tends to sit at around the 90%+ mark.
The Worst City
Obviously somebody has to come last in this table and that gong goes to Hereford in England, which was due to its “complete lack of business infrastructure“, lack of office space, expensive virtual office prices, limit access to grants for start-ups and the fact that broadband speeds in the city are also slow at 9Mbps. The availability of superfast connections also tends to sit at around the low 70% mark. Other small UK cathedral cities also struggled for a good ranking.
The Top UK Cities for Starting a Company
St Albans 12
St David’s 52
Brighton & Hove 56
St Asaph 62