A recent survey* found that more than half of tech professionals thinking about moving to the UK would consider choosing a city outside of London.
Conducted by Frank Recruitment Group’s specialist Salesforce recruitment arm, Mason Frank International, the survey asked over 1,800 IT professionals from around the world for their opinions on the tech jobs market, salaries, and benefits.
The findings showed that 54% of respondents who would consider relocating to the UK for work would be open to pursuing opportunities beyond the capital. Among the cities mentioned by respondents as potential relocation options include Newcastle, Liverpool, and Leeds.
This data highlights the growing allure of emerging tech hubs outside of the South East, demonstrating that London is no longer the default choice for tech talent seeking new challenges.
There are many reasons behind the dissemination of the UK’s technological power, with the increasingly prohibitive cost of living and doing business in London proving a key factor. ONS statistics show the average UK household’s weekly expenditure totalling £585.20. In London, this basic outlay climbs to £703.10, making it comfortably the most costly region in the UK to live in.
By comparison, the average weekly expenditure per household in the North of England is significantly lower with households in the North East spending £499.30. In the North West—home to emerging tech hubs like Liverpool and Manchester—weekly expenditure averages around £530, dropping to £529 in Yorkshire and the Humber area.
As well as the relatively low cost of living, there’s also a surge in opportunities in the North of the country. A growing number of established businesses such as the BBC, KPMG, HSBC, Xplor, and Burberry have all opted to open major locations in the North in recent years.
The region has also given rise to many thriving born-and-bred tech businesses—to date, 12 technology companies founded in the North have achieved unicorn status.
This migration of large companies, combined with growing VC investment in burgeoning Northern businesses, is creating a hotbed of tech jobs. More than 90,000 tech jobs are being advertised every week in the UK, with the country’s IT workforce growing by 40% over the past two years, despite the economic turmoil created by the global health crisis.
Following the pandemic, London’s status as the country’s tech epicentre is being further challenged by the upsurge in remote working. As reliance on the physical office wanes, many startups have scaled back—or entirely given up—their London real estate in favour of dispersed workforces, with others opting to set up cheaper HQs elsewhere.
As a result, the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber regions are all fast becoming successful tech hubs in their own right.
Though the North East has the highest unemployment rates due to COVID-19, its growing tech sector could help offset job losses. Recent statistics from Adzuna show that the sector is creating high levels of new employment, accounting for 14% of all vacancies in the region. According to Tech Nation, the North East is the top-performing area outside of London for inward investment, and is home to the European HQs of companies like Nissan and Ubisoft. Newcastle ranks as the country’s ninth most important tech hub, ahead of larger cities such as Leeds, Birmingham, and Glasgow, with AI and immersive tech among the fields flourishing in the area.
Yorkshire and The Humber
According to a Tech Nation report, tech businesses across Yorkshire raised a total of £174.m in investment in 2020, beating 2018’s previous record of £121m. Hull has also been ranked as the country’s sixth most important city for tech investment in 2020.
Home to Rolls Royce, Boeing, McLaren, Siemens, and Channel 4, the Humber region is also a significant player in the digital health space, being home to 63% of the country’s health-tech businesses. The city of Hull ranked sixth in terms of venture capital investment in 2020, bringing in $108m in funding.
London Tech Week found that the North West of England is home to 43% of the UK’s digital unicorns, and data from Tech Nation named Manchester as the fastest-growing tech city in Europe. Recently named the UK’s Top Digital Tech City, based on the scale of digital business activity and affordability, Manchester is second only to London in terms of tech investment levels, driving up salaries for IT professionals in the area in the process.
Zoë Morris, President at Frank Recruitment Group, said: “Given the challenges that the pandemic forced upon us, technology was the glue that kept us all connected. The great leap forward in digital transformation that the pandemic triggered means the need for technological skills has increased dramatically.
“New tech jobs are being created at a rapid rate, and these roles are no longer concentrated in the London area. As these regional tech hotspots continue to grow, they’ll bring massive benefits to their local areas, opening doors to new careers for so many people.
“Clearly, these IT hubs are proving an increasing draw for international professionals too, which will help the country attract the best, most pioneering talent from around the world. Diversifying the great opportunities the tech industry offers will go a long way to closing the IT skills gap we’re currently facing.”
*Survey by cloud technology recruitment firm Frank Recruitment Group