https://dwpdigital.blog.gov.uk/2016/04/07/teching-it-north/

Tech'ing it North

Silicon Roundabout, Jack Torcello

Once London was the only place in the UK for a career in technology – now the action is moving north.

Migration

The last few years have seen a steady migration for tech development to the great cities of the north. Technology clusters are emerging across the UK, as companies and employees are turning their backs on London. Rising house prices, rents and increased transport costs are discouraging talent from the ‘big smoke’ of London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’.

The government-backed Tech City UK is promoting the entire UK, not just the capital. Its new tech clusters are springing up in Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, joining the global race for start-ups and technology innovation.

CEO, Gerard Grech, told ‘Computer Weekly’ it’s not just about London anymore. While some argue that start-ups cannot exist outside the capital, he believes the development of technology in the UK is dependent on connecting clusters of activity across the entire country.

Northern pull

This isn’t news for government. DWP Technology already has a large technology presence in the North. With hubs in Sheffield, Leeds, the North East and North West, DWP Technology is delivering Europe’s largest digital transformation programme. It’s an exciting time for employees working on large-scale welfare reform projects including Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment. HMRC too is expanding its digital and software functions.

It’s not just about location either: the new DWP Technology hubs are adopting more agile ways of working, with workplaces designed for collaboration, flexible working and innovation.

A mere two hours by train away from London, Leeds is already home to the next up-and-coming financial services sector after London, and was chosen by Sky for its ‘world-class technology facility’ as the company develops its digital services.

Sheffield, the fourth largest and arguably greenest city in England, boasts Dotforge, which supports start-ups for tech talent. With Leeds and Sheffield enjoying up to 60% lower living costs, Sheffield is marketed as the ‘maker city’ and Leeds, the ‘data city’.

A new life

Graham Sant left the south behind for a new life in Leeds. He now works as a Junior Software Developer on the DWP Technology Universal Credit programme. After spending a day shadowing the team, he took the plunge and made the move. The inexpensive cost of both commuting and renting near to Leeds were a big draw and an opportunity too good to miss.

Northern stronghold

Offering a better quality of life, freedom from commuting and more open space, other locations north of the capital that could take business away include:

  • Birmingham: with its digital economy of over 6,000 technology firms, employing almost 40,000 people and contributing £768 million to the regional economy. The digital company and online retailer, ASOS, recently opened a base there, diversifying beyond London.
  • Manchester: another city with growing technology talent and a newly-formed Media City. It’s well placed in its ambitions to become one of the world’s top 20 digital cities by 2020.
  • The North East: with FTSE 100 company, Sage, headquartered in Newcastle and over 26,000 people in digital employment. Coding clubs have taken off and gaming, such as Epic Games UK, has been a large contributor to its technology success.

It’s certainly time to challenge Dr Johnson’s feeling that a man who is tired of London is tired of life.

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