Edinburgh has been crowned the best British city for business outside of London, according to new research by Management Today.
The iconic business magazine conducted in-depth data analysis to rank the UK’s largest cities and towns outside of London on how attractive they are for business.
It assessed the 63 urban areas across 15 criteria that matter most to businesses including: the scale of the private sector ecosystem, the strength of innovation, the number of high-growth businesses, access to a skilled workforce and quality of life.
In order to create the index, Management Today worked with a panel of judges from a range of organisations including Accenture, British Land, the CBI, eBay, JLL, McCann and the University of Nottingham.
Edinburgh was anointed king of the business castle for being a vibrant, future-facing city, that boasts a strong economy and business base, a highly productive and skilled workforce, a track record of innovation and a much-vaunted quality of life.
Overall Scotland performed well in MT’s index, with Glasgow securing fourth place.
The news was welcomed by the Scottish Government. The Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee, said: “We are delighted, but probably not surprised. Edinburgh and Glasgow are both great places to do business. There is some fabulous work going on in a number of sectors that we’re very proud of, be that digital, tech, fintech, financial services, life sciences, the space sector or the energy sector, combined with some great universities.
“We want to attract more people to live, study, work and set up businesses in Scotland. We will make the process very easy for them because we’ll welcome them with open arms. We are seeing more and more people make that choice. This is the place to be if you want to be in those sectors of the future.”
Meanwhile some of the most high-profile business leaders based in Edinburgh also welcomed the news. Howard Davies, chairman of NatWest Group, said: “We’ve been part of the fabric in Edinburgh for almost 300 years, and for good reason. It is home to several of the best universities in the UK which ensures a steady stream of internationally-respected talent, making the city a hub to a wide range of businesses. Finance and professional services have long been a competitive advantage, but the creative industries, energy, tech and innovation have more recently added to the city’s economy. Our people find Edinburgh to be a great place to live and work.”
John Mangelaars, CEO of the one of the city’s unicorn companies Skyscanner, said: “We remain immensely proud of our roots in the Scottish capital. There is no doubt that the city is one of the UK’s economic powerhouses, with a vibrant business community – especially in tech – a keen entrepreneurial spirit and a highly skilled workforce, owing in part to its proximity to world class universities that excel in computer science and IT. In recent years the Edinburgh start-up scene has really flourished too, which helps to strengthen the overall ecosystem.”
Overall, the top 20 places for business in the UK were:
- Edinburgh (overall score: 81.9%)
- Leeds (68.4%)
- Bristol (67.8%)
- Glasgow (67.4%)
- Reading (63.9%)
- Birmingham (63.7%)
- Brighton (63%)
- Newcastle (62.1%)
- Nottingham (61.9%)
- Milton Keynes (60.7%)
- Liverpool (59.9%)
- Manchester (59.3%)
- Cardiff (56.9%)
- Leicester (56.8%)
- Cambridge (56.2%)
- Oxford (55.8%)
- Southampton (55.4%)
- Derby (55.1%)
- Portsmouth (53.7%)
- Aldershot (53.1%)
Management Today’s editor Kate Magee said: “Where is the best place to do business in the UK? For too long, London has greedily hogged the limelight. But business life doesn’t end at the M25. The UK has a series of thriving business communities and we want to celebrate their dynamism. Our in-depth research highlights how the UK’s key towns and cities really compare, with some results that may make you think again about your location.”
Businesses can use the interactive tool on MT’s website (www.managementtoday.co.uk) to find out if they are based in the right city. Leaders can select the criteria that matter most to their business, and the tool will create a personalised ranking of cities.
Notes to editors
We collected data on the UK’s 63 primary urban areas (PUA) excluding London. This is a measure of the “built-up” area of a large city or town, rather than individual local authority districts. We often had to combine data from several local authorities relevant to a single PUA. We used the most recent data available – most are from 2021 or 2020. In one case (patent applications) this dated back to 2018.
Our expert judging panel advised on the relative importance of the different categories to a business. We used this to weigh some categories more highly than others in our formula. We grouped our 15 categories into 5 macro categories with the following weights – business environment (30%), skills and wages (30%), jobs (13%), living environment (15%), access (12%). As discussed with our judges, business without people is nothing. This is why a skilled workforce and an attractive living environment rank highly in our calculations.
Within each category we identified PUAs that were “outliers”. Values that were 1.5 times the interquartile range (IQR) above the upper quartile were replaced with the same value as the largest non-outlier. Values that were 1.5 times the IQR below the lower quartile were replaced with the same value as the smallest non-outlier. This was done to ensure that outperforming on one category didn’t unfairly skew the final index.
The full 15 categories:
Patents; change in business stock; number of new business started; number of high-growth businesses; value of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships; working-age population; proportion of highly-skilled working-age population; employers with hard to fill vacancies; average weekly workplace earnings; number of private sector jobs; premises covered with ultrafast broadband; housing affordability ratio; number of days of poor air quality; access to green space; and life satisfaction of residents.
The judging panel:
Sarah Hall, professor of economic geography, Nottingham University
Jim Hubbard, head of regional policy, CBI
Emma Cariaga, joint head of Canada Water development, British Land
Murray Lambell, general manager, eBay UK
Kru Desai, independent commissioner for the Geospatial Commission and former UK head of government & infrastructure at KPMG
Matt Prebble, senior MD and UK Strategy & Consulting lead, Accenture
Mark Lund, president, McCann Worldgroup UK and Europe
Lucy Morton, head of UK residential agency, JLL
About Management Today
Management Today is Britain’s oldest business magazine. It launched in 1966 and pioneered the long-form business leader interview. It is now a quarterly magazine and website and is read by the most senior leaders in British business – 80% of its readership are CEOs, C-suite executives and senior leaders. It also runs a series of conferences and awards and has just launched a leadership education programme.
About Haymarket Media Group
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