Editorial

ODI publishes special ‘UK data innovation’ snapshot

New index claims to “shed new light on where British innovation is flourishing”, showing how active the digital innovation community is in 36 of our largest cities

Posted 1 August 2017 by

London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton, Southampton are the top five British cities for data innovation according to the new UK Tech Innovation Index, published today by the Open Data Institute and incubators Digital Capital.

Meanwhile London, while still dominant, is being challenged for top spot by smaller cities punching above their weight like Cambridge, Edinburgh and Brighton – while focused industry excellence, such as in Aberdeen and Coventry, host “thriving manufacturing innovation communities”, while Reading and Liverpool lead on IoT.

The air say they conducted the research to gain a clearer picture of the UK innovation landscape, to help inform business and public sector decision-making around investment and growth.

Data on tech events, conferences and meetups from a range of sources have been brought together with data such as academic publications, local skills measures, business startup rates, and research and development spending.

On this basis, the Index claims to “shed new light on where British innovation is flourishing”, showing how active the innovation community is in 36 of the largest UK cities, across the seven key industrial sectors of Data, Manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence, Health, IoT (Internet of Things), Machine Learning and Virtual Reality.

The Index’s findings include

  • Tech innovation is “unsurprisingly strong” in London, but innovation is not limited to the South East, with highly active hubs across the country, including Edinburgh, Reading, Cardiff and Liverpool
  • In many places, particularly smaller cities, innovation is aligned with local industries. For example, Aberdeen, with its strong offshore engineering industries, and Coventry and Birmingham with their car industries, are today very strong in manufacturing innovation
  • Larger cities such as London, Manchester, and Glasgow have strong innovation ecosystems across all measured sectors.

“Our approach to measuring innovation pioneers new ways of picking out the early signs that industrial clusters are emerging,” claimed Index project leader Tom Forth, Head of Data at ODI Leeds.

“Our results are largely as expected, with large cities such as London, Manchester, and Glasgow performing strongly in all areas and well-known overachievers such as Edinburgh, Cambridge, and Brighton punching well above their weight.

“[But] interestingly, our techniques seem to spot early signs of more focused excellence. In Reading and Liverpool we see real strength in Internet of Things; Leeds does very well in Health; and in Aberdeen and Coventry, Manufacturing is notably strong [and] there are early signs of other new clusters emerging in other new fields, right across the country.”

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute, added, “This new research reveals that innovation around data isn’t a London-based phenomenon.

“Using real-time data to identify clusters should help inform innovation policy, where it’s especially important to respond to how things are, rather than how they were, as well as the behaviour of businesses and jobseekers.

“Developing measures like this in the open also helps to increase our understanding about what drives innovation and which activities create real impact.”

Finally, for Dr Jeremy Silver, Digital Catapult CEO, “While London continues to be a heavyweight player on the global tech stage, innovation is by no means confined to the capital. We’re seeing high potential clusters of innovation across the UK, linked to opportunities identified within the tech sector or aligned to universities or dominant regional industries.”

The Index was compiled by the Open Data Institute and the Digital Catapult and was sponsored by Innovate UK.

The Open Data Institute is five years old this year, and was set up to catalyse an open data economy by bringing together individuals, businesses and governments from all over the world. It claims to have since reached global audience of millions, trained thousands in new data skills, supported hundreds of startups and unlocked over £66m in value.

Its next phase, it states, is “building a strong, fair and sustainable data economy by helping governments and businesses around the world get data to people who need it”.

Go here for an online interactive map that shows the most active innovation communities in the UK by industry sector.