When most people think of setting up a technology business they seem to gravitate towards the Silicon Roundabout in London, which is already cramped and very expensive. While many focus on the Capital, Birmingham has been quietly winning awards for its attractiveness for foreign investment and as a place to seed start-ups.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
In December, Birmingham was named FDI Destination of the Future in a glitzy event in Shanghai. No other UK city even made it to the shortlist, which bears testament to just how attractive the city is. In the awards the judging panel said that Birmingham's support for investors, the scale of investment in its infrastructure, talent pool and its ambitious economic development were key factors in this decision.
Post Industrial Development
In the UK, Birmingham isn't known as a hotspot for technical innovation and as a place to do business, but for its past life as a heavy industrial centre. Many think of Birds custard factory or the Rover factory which went into a spectacular meltdown in the last 10 years. In the city centre one thinks of the Bull Ring, a brutalist piece of architecture which housed an indoor market. This perception is outdated.
The Bull Ring has been replaced with a new millennial shopping centre of the same name. There are several Michelin starred restaurants in the city, and the infrastructure is being replaced root and branch to make it more appealing for business. As such Birmingham is undergoing a rebirth to accommodate the post industrial service economy that is core to the modern UK economy.
What's There For Me?
Though higher than most of the Black Country, rents are obscenely cheap in comparison to London. Lower overheads result in more money to invest in product. Then there are the networks and tech infrastructure in place - a number of business support organisations are in town such as Silicon Canal and Entrepreneurs for the Future, which are supported by Birmingham City Council.
These are nuclei for tech start-ups, and around them a lot of successful businesses have formed which in turn feed back into the community through events such as Tech Wednesday, where local entrepreneurs can share their successes and failures - but also support each other into the future.
If investment in your product is a high priority, then Birmingham could be the right place for your start-up.