August 19, 2015

Leeds: the Digital Capital of the North

Leeds: the go-to place for DigitalLeeds has long been known for having the largest legal and financial sector outside London – now it can make that claim for the Digital sector also.

In recent months, we’ve seen a number of events that cement the city’s’ claim to be the key centre for digital companies and opportunities outside London. London is undoubtedly the main centre for digital, but startups are falling out of love with the city, mainly due to rising costs. Research by the University of Surrey confirms this.

Meanwhile, Google opened up its first Digital Garage outside of London here. Sky used hard data when it was looking to create a new tech hub and create 400 jobs; it chose Leeds. The government also showed confidence in the city when it awarded £3.7m to FutureLabs, run by successful entrepreneur Steve Wainwright, to create a new tech hub in the city.

Long a centre for digital innovation (the free internet model was developed here by Freeserve), the city continues to develop. Leeds DataCity, a collaboration between the City Council, Bloom agency, the Leeds’ Node of the Open Data Institute and KPMG, is developing innovative ways of using data to solve a city’s problems.

The Leeds Institute for Data Analytics is working on ground-breaking ways of using data to understand health and human behaviour, attracting funding of £12m in the process. The NHS’s Health and Social Care Information Centre, which hosts 70 million patient records and handles over 6bn messages annually, is based in the city. The HSCIC developed its data systems with local company BJSS.

The region’s digital infrastructure is centred on Leeds-based aql, run by Adam Beaumont, who is also a founder and board member of IX Leeds, the main internet peering hub for the north; IX Leeds is the only mutual, not for profit, internet exchange outside of London.

Large IT services provider, FDM Group, has announced that it is looking to increase the number of staff in its Leeds office from 100 to 500 in the next two years, following on from the relocation of its Manchester office to the city in June 2015. Another huge vote of confidence.

The growth in the Digital sector in the city has been impressive and will grow even more, as not only the existing companies expand, but outside firms take the lead from Sky and use data to work out that there’s only one alternative to London: Leeds.