We may have offices dotted all over the world, but Leeds will always have a special place in our hearts. It may not be the warmest of our locations, but Costa Del Yorkshire has a very exciting future on the horizon. Employing 102,000 people and worth a massive £64.6 billion to the economy, the Leeds digital scene is one of the fastest growing sectors and is already a force to be reckoned with.
Stuart Clarke, who headed up Leeds Digital Festival this year, said that “London’s dominance of the digital sector is at risk from the increasingly high expense of living and running a business in the city, and that Leeds with its rapidly developing digital technology industry, was ideally placed to capitalise on this.”
So we wanted to look at why Leeds has so much potential and why so many people believe it to bethe new digital capital of the UK and the go-to destination for all things tech.
One of the main factors that has helped drive the digital revolution in Leeds is the massive £1 million funding launched by Leeds City Region Enterprise to encourage digital businesses to relocate to Leeds. There are already more than 3,500 agencies in Leeds, and this is continuing to grow. Leeds City Council also issued a massive £3.7 million grant for tech projects last year, which has helped push the city’s digital status further. Both of these investments have greatly developed the digital industry in Leeds, not to mention the level of support and investment from the city’s three universities to grow the talent in Leeds at the grassroots level, from degree-level internships to digital boot camps, preparing the best local talent for a career in digital and, more importantly, making them want to stay in Leeds.
Obviously, Leeds is home to the headquarters of the best agency in the world, ICS-digital. But five out of the top ten digital agencies in the whole of the North of England are based in Leeds. If 50% of the best agencies also believe how great of a city Leeds is to work in, Leeds must be doing something right. Not to mention the entrepreneurial spirit of Leeds and how the city is becoming the home for the most prolific start-ups.
The only two other (real) contenders for the digital capital of the UK are London and Manchester. Everyone knows how expensive and commercially competitive London can be, so it’s no surprise that the biggest names in the UK are moving to Yorkshire to avoid high prices higher costs of living. Manchester was sitting pretty as the more sensible location choice after London for huge companies, allowing them to avoid high office rates and an over-saturated, over-fished talent pool. However, property developmentcompanies and the Manchester Council have squashed the cities potential bytrying to become the next London, with expensive office rates and a cut-throat businessattitude that doesn’t have the warmth or collaboration that marketers andagencies are looking for.
If you’ve ever worked in London or Manchester, you’ll know how competitive the digital scene can be. But things are a bit different here in Leeds. Everyone wants to work together and help everyone succeed for the common good, not for individual egos or targets. There are thousands of events every year, which are a great way to meet peers, and they're getting better and better, not to mention the annual Leeds Digital Festival and the holy grail that is Search Leeds. For example, when Leeds Digital Festival started back in 2016, it had just 56 events. But in 2018, we saw a stacked line up of industry celebrities and expert-panels, as well as more than 170 events, conferences, and socials across the event schedule. Now, Leeds Digital Festival is already the biggest digital festival of the North, even putting international cities like San Francisco to shame with the volume and calibre of digital events happening. Take a look at the new Leeds Digital Hub, a co-working space run by Leeds Beckett University in cooperation with The Yorkshire Post, which already has over 200 businesses across various tech industries calling it home.
So if you’ve ever visited Leeds before, you’ll know that there are some amazing bars, incredible restaurants, and plenty of thriving independents across the city. From staple favourites like Fazenda and The Ivy, to quirky standalones serving up a plethora of cuisines, including Scandinavian eateries, vegan hangouts, and possibly the best doughnuts in the world (in my professional opinion). If this wasn’t enough, you can wash it all down with a selection of drinks from some of the best bars and pubs in the country, including White Locks Ale House, Northern Brewing Co’s Tap Room, and The Domino Room, which oozes cool as an underground jazz club in the old arcade. Did we also mention that Leeds is apparently the beer capital of the North?
We’ve seen some of the biggest names in the country (and world) relocate to Leeds in recent years. Household brands such as Sky Bet, NHS Digital, and Channel 4 have all moved to Leeds in recent years, creating thousands of jobs and adding to the already booming economy. HMRC are also due to move around 6,000 jobs to Leeds by 2020 to deliver a more digitally focused and advanced tax service. This is following NHS’s successful move last year, and they will even share the same office building. Long story short, large companies are giving their workers the chance to relocate to a city that is vibrant and exciting, but still very affordable and enjoyable to live in. This has all been part of the Northern Powerhouse shift, which is an effort to decentralise industries away from London and balance the UK economy. It’s not only the huge organisations that are seeing the potential, but the government can also clearly see that Leeds is worth investing in.
According to recent data, Leedsreally does nurture start-ups. According to the Start-up Cities Index list ofthe best cities to start a business in, Leeds comes in at number six for the whole of the UK, and that’s pretty damn impressive. The data take into account everything from crime rates, culture, and house prices. We’ve already spoken about the massive government investment being issued for start-ups, but when welook at the number of start-up digital companies emerging in the city, we cansee that it is a true reflection of the entrepreneurial reputation Leeds is known for.
Thinking of moving to Leeds and looking to secure a job at one of the best agencies around? Head to our careers page, because we might have just the thing for you.
Featured image: Jungpionier. [CC BY-SA 3.0]