The digital sector in Greater Birmingham is worth around £2 billion a year to the UK economy with over 6,000 technology firms calling Birmingham home. Around 40,000 people are employed across technology related disciplines, with around 21% of the UK's games industry workforce based within the region.
Birmingham is strategically located sitting at the heart of the UK’s fibre backbone. The data centre network located in the city provides not only high-speed connectivity but importantly, operational resilience to technology firms. Birmingham was also BT’s first Wireless City with Wi-Fi cover for the city centre and was one of the first cities in the UK to roll out a Fourth Generation (4G) wireless network.
Central to Birmingham’s current and future attraction to technology firms is talent. Importantly, the city’s five universities produce on average 70,000 graduates each year. Close to 1,800 of these students graduate in computer sciences. This has led to the University of Birmingham being ranked number one in the UK for this discipline in 2014. Also, Birmingham has a high quality of life. The 2016 Mercer ‘Quality of Living’ index gave recognition of progress made in the city ranking Birmingham 53rd out of 230 global cities. This was the third highest of any UK city.
Birmingham’s Science Parks add further appeal. The ‘Without Walls’ collaboration with Cisco connects start-ups and businesses with innovators, academics and investors globally. The Park is now on Cisco’s Global Exchange for Growth programme. The Custard Factory also provides a centre for growth. The fifteen-acre site has become a hub for both established and fledgling creative and digital companies. Online retailer ASOS is a major tenant.
Birmingham has strong foundations in order to attract the next generation of talent and technology firm. Urban regeneration will further support growth in the digital arena. Measures have been designed to fit with government policies, such as the ‘powerhouses approach’, resulting in the five initiatives below to be undertaken at city regional level:
- The Skills engine, which brings together a network of key players within Birmingham to improve the matching demand for and the supply of talent.
- Building long-term engagement between SME’s and graduates.
- Developing an ecosystem for knowledge rich enterprises.
- Establish a knowledge strategy that will take a multi-sector approach to understanding key economic growth areas within the city.
- Gathering better data to support graduate careers and support graduate mobility to enable the continued development of the regional talent pool.
The recent opening of ICentrum at the Birmingham Innovation Campus further demonstrates the direction the city is going. This programme and future initiatives will ensure Birmingham is well placed to benefit from growth in the technology sector.