Bristol provides plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs not just to start but grow companies that can compete with the best in the UK and the world. It is widely regarded for cultivating innovation, building technical and financial support networks, and facilitating spaces optimised for budding businesses.
Tech startups, in particular, find that Bristol is the best city to set up shop, as it is one of the major locations in South West England for digital-focused businesses; an area that has colloquially come to be referred to as Silicon Gorge.
In this article, we’ll take a brief look into why tech startups choose Bristol and the resources you can take advantage of when starting your own tech business in the city.
Bristol’s Basics for Business
- High-Speed Internet — Bristol boasts broadband speeds that beat the national average of 18.57Mbps, with Choose reporting an average speed of 20Mbps. The major ISPs such as Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, and Plusnet offer fibre options that go much faster at 30Mbps and upwards.
Depending on the postcode, businesses can get 100Mbps+ download speeds. Bristol has the fastest average mobile broadband speed in the 15 biggest cities in the UK, hitting 28.2Mbps with 4G. The city is also a 5G testbed, which would lead to even greater connectivity once the technology is more widespread.
- Convenient Location — Bristol connects South West England to the rest of the UK. It takes about 90 minutes to get to London via the M32 and M5 motorways or a direct train ride to Paddington.
Temple Meads allows easy travel to Birmingham, Manchester, and Newcastle. South Wales is a short journey across the Severn Bridge. International flights to New York and over 50 major European cities is possible from Bristol Airport. Commuting throughout the city is simple with the new MetroBus.
- Quality of Life — Bristol is also forecast to be one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Its properties combine the energy and diversity of urban living and culture with the beauty and community of the countryside.
Bristol’s Resources for Tech Start-ups
1. Deep Pool of Highly Educated Talent
Two of the country’s leading universities are located in Bristol: Bristol University and the University of the West of England. Both academic institutions are research-based, continually building on decades of studies and preparing students for the knowledge-focused tech industry.
The University of Bristol in particular partners with local businesses to employ graduates. Through its Research and Enterprise Development (RED) programme, the university can place undergraduates and postgraduates in short to medium-term projects. Research and consultancy contracts are another viable way for tech startups to gain affordable access to skilled talent through the RED programme.
A significant percentage of students who graduate in the two local universities, as well as the other two universities from Bristol’s sister city of Bath, stay in the region. In fact, there are over 10,000 graduates from all four universities making the decision to stay every year.
The presence of some of the country’s biggest tech companies, such as Bristol’s Robotics Laboratory and the city’s growing reputation of being a tech hotspot, attracts Britain’s brightest minds. With an average salary of £47,063 for workers in the tech industry, Bristol brings out the competitiveness in its innovators.
Looking at Bristol’s population in general, plenty of people of working age have graduated from university or earned technical qualifications. About 50% of the labour force have National Vocational Qualification Level 4 or higher.
2. Wide Business Support Network
Businesses in Bristol enjoy a tight, mature support network that offers a range of resources to improve and grow operations:
- The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), along with developing infrastructure and supporting academia in the region, runs skills training programmes and gives discounts for businesses looking to relocate to the area.
- SETsquared is the world’s leading business support initiative and was made possible through the partnership between the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton, and Surrey. The organisation hosts various mentoring programmes that enable entrepreneurs to achieve their tech and engineering-related ambitions.
- The High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre offers everything from facilities to training courses for manufacturing companies involved in developing tech.
- Oracle’s Bristol Startup Cloud Accelerator specifically works with new businesses looking to disrupt cloud technology.
- TechSPARK connects professionals across the tech industry through its job boards and events while providing the latest news and comprehensive profiles of movers and shakers.
- BRAVE Enterprise and Business West are independent, non-profit organisations that advise and train start-ups.
3. Reliable Funding Sources
Startups require a healthy investment environment to thrive, and Bristol has just that with its local institutions providing generous funding for small businesses to large corporates.
The West of England Growth Fund can grant up to £80,000 to entrepreneurs that can prove that they stimulate the Bristol job market. The LEP has a pool of £25m in development funding for the city and the rest of the region. This includes grants ranging from £10,000 to £1m to be awarded to businesses that advance R&D, run training programmes, hire disabled or disadvantaged workers, and fund other startups.
SWIG Finance, meanwhile, helps businesses get off the ground with loans that can be as low as £500 and as high as £100,000.
Big banks such as Lloyds and NatWest also have a major presence in the Bristol and Bath region, providing their share of credible business loan options.
4. World-Class Working Spaces
To bring the future to life, tech entrepreneurs need their working spaces to foster an atmosphere of forward-thinking. Bristol is home to some of the most cutting-edge hubs for tech and engineering.
Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol, and LEP came together to create Engine Shed, the foremost location for tech startups and high-growth businesses. SETsquared itself is based in Engine Shed. It sits right next to Bristol Temple Meads, allowing for convenient commutes for the fast-paced life of enterprising individuals.
Engine Shed’s success has led to the development of Boxworks, a neighbouring working space made from old shipping containers that now houses small digital-focused businesses.
Bristol & Bath Science Park has state-of-the-art spaces for lab and office work as well as conference and networking rooms.
Future Space is yet another viable option for co-working spaces and science-focused work with its high-tech laboratories that are perfect for businesses in the robotics field.
Alternative office spaces such as Mild Bunch, Funky Spaces, and the Bristol Games Hub are great for app and video game designers and developers.
Bristol is Built for Startup Success
2017 saw Bristol earn the distinguished honour of being the UK’s most competitive and productive tech cluster. An astonishing turnover per person of £320,000 puts the city well above its peers. Bristol is also the city with the highest first-year startup survival rate in the country, reaching an impressive 44.8%.
With all the resources available for would-be business owners, Bristol is your best bet to start your tech company.ALL ARTICLES