8 Great Places to Start a Business in the UK

With a huge growth in new businesses registered on Companies House in 2021, and research from Tide finding that the UK is the cheapest place to start a business in Europe, the entrepreneurial and startup spirit is booming in the UK.

But, while many still consider central London to be the epicentre for business, some of the best cities to start a business in the UK are actually outside of the metropolis. 

In 2021, almost £9 billion of all Venture Capital investment went into startups and scaleups outside of London and the South East, and nine out of 29 unicorns were formed in these regions. And, 35% of futurecorns are also based outside of the capital, meaning there is even more opportunity to set up a business in regional towns and cities. 

Here’s a list of some of the locations that we think could be home to the next pioneering business – complete with all the information you’ll need if you’re considering starting your business in one of these locations.  


Glasgow

Scotland’s most populous city has a long history of being an economic powerhouse. Generating an estimated £19.3 billion per year, it is one of the fastest-growing major city economies in the UK. Home to a vibrant culture, Glasgow centres itself around creativity and innovation.

With a mission to become the most productive major city in the UK, Glasgow’s on an upward trajectory. The city boasts plenty of exciting opportunities for businesses to thrive, being the home to Interactive Investor, one of the nine unicorns outside of London. 

Start a business in Glasgow

Image by Ian Dick

Glasgow Fact File


Bristol

A city that cares deeply, Bristol has transformed from its maritime roots into a thriving cultural hub, with a particular focus on environmental and sustainable businesses. The city was recently awarded Gold Sustainable Food City status, recognising its positive work on the city’s food system. 47% of the city’s waste is recycled, according to the EG Sustainable cities index. 

Bristol is seeing more than 80 people a week relocate from London to Bristol and Bath, making it a fast-growing city with new talent joining it all the time. And, with 45.5% of the population walking or cycling to work over five times a week, it’s a great place for health-conscious startups to find talent. 

Start a business in Bristol

Bristol Fact File


Brighton and Hove

Also known as Silicon Beach, Brighton and Hove has had an exciting few years, experiencing a thriving economy and steady rise in entrepreneurship. Its reputation for quirkiness attracts new residents far and wide, and it welcomes thousands of students each year across its two universities, the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex.

Brighton has a strong business community, and its entrepreneurs, leaders and founders are well looked after when it comes to accelerators and funding programmes. The BRITE innovation project, run by Plus X Brighton in partnership with the University of Brighton provides innovation programmes to suit businesses and entrepreneurs at any stage. 

Start a business in Brighton

Brighton Fact File


Sheffield

Sheffield, or the ‘Steel City’, has a strong history in manufacturing. This is a city on the rise, with a dedicated innovation district, and receiving a multimillion investment as part of the Heart of the City development scheme. It’s also the headquarters of many large non-manufacturing companies, including HSBC, Royal Mail and Aviva. 

Sheffield’s relatively affordable rents and mortgages make it a great location for professionals that may not wish to pay London prices. Now is a great time to start a business in Sheffield, as the future is looking bright. 

Start a business in Sheffield

Image by Tigerbww

Sheffield Fact File


Milton Keynes

Like some other places on this list, business owners in Milton Keynes can benefit from the reduced costs of an out-of-London location, whilst being a mere 32 minutes away by train from the capital. It’s a city on the rise, and a great place to set up a business in the UK, with an impressively high level of startups. 

It has also been at the forefront of trialling new technologies in recent years, including driverless pods. Milton Keynes is home to the Transport Systems Catapult, the UK’s technology and innovation centre for Intelligent Mobility.

Start a business in Milton Keynes

Image by Mattbuck

Milton Keynes Fact File


Birmingham

The entrepreneurial spirit is riding high among Birmingham’s young and lively population, returning to its position as a leader in innovation. It’s also famously one of the most centrally located cities in the country, meaning that it’s a four-hour drive away for 90% of the population. Its easy connections and bustling activity make Birmingham a great place to set up a business.

Start a business in Birmingham

Image by Bs0u10e0

Birmingham Fact File


West London

While many look to central London as the heart of big business, West London has established itself as a thriving epicentre for innovation and startup culture. Organisations including the West London Business create opportunities for networking and investment in this flourishing area. 

In Hayes, you’ll find the Central Research Laboratory, which brings opportunities for entrepreneurship and provides makers facilities outside of central London. It is home to the CRL Accelerator, the UK’s leading programme for product makers and hardware pioneers.

Start a business in West London

West London Fact File


Bournemouth

With its glorious sandy beaches and micro-climate, starting a business in Bournemouth isn’t exactly a hard sell… but its lesser-known reputation as a thriving sci-tech hub might be another reason to add to the list. 

Bournemouth University’s academic research has helped it to become one of the top-ranking universities in Business and Management, creating a steady stream of budding business leaders among its alumni.

Start a business in Bournemouth

Image by Jack Pease

Bournemouth Fact File

 


Plus X innovation hubs optimise opportunities for business, academics and communities to connect, collaborate and thrive.

Would your city or town benefit from the opening of a Plus X innovation hub? Let us know!


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