Silicon Gorge: Why Bristol is the Best Place for IT Relocation

The digital revolution that has swept across the UK in recent decades has benefitted Bristol more than most, helping to make the city’s already above average economic performance go from good to exceptional. The digital revolution in the South West of England has lead to the coining of the term Silicon Gorge (a play on Silicon Valley and the Avon Gorge which the River Avon follows as it makes its way from Avonmouth into Bristol).

With a solid engineering heritage, Bristol’s burgeoning tech scene has deep roots —

From the work of the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel to the Rolls Royce engines made at Filton during the Second World War to the development of Concorde, to thriving semiconductor industry.

Today Bristol leads the way in three crucial digital sectors: data management and analytics, software development and Edtech.

Whether you run a tech company yourself your growing business will likely be ever more reliant on IT expertise and experience and so this makes Bristol a strategically sound place to relocate, outside of London.

The Southwest’s Digital Powerhouse

Much like the city’s attitude — independent but not detached —Bristol sits in a geographic sweet spot; a relatively short drive from the seaside and scenery of the Devon, Dorset and Cornwall in the Southwest, but also just an hour and 45 minutes direct train ride to London. Within a few years, this journey will be even faster, as planned railway upgrades aim to cut 15-20 minutes off the time between London’s Paddington andBristol’s Temple Meads, putting the capital in similar reach as the cities of Plymouth and Birmingham.

Alighting at Temple Meads, the visitor finds themselves at the centre of Bristol’s burgeoning version of Canary Wharf — or more officially, the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone — where business rate discounts and relaxed planning rules are helping to transform an area of derelict land into a bustling business district with companies like Burges Salmon, IBM, Deloitte, Womble Bond Dickinson and HSBC all occupying waterfront office blocks.

Unlike many other cities, Bristol’s main business district is slightly displaced from the city centre and clustered around Brunel’s magnificent train terminus, built in 1841, which itself houses an incubator for local start-ups. Bristol University (which will soon be opening a campus at Temple Quarter) and Bristol Council, collaborated to create the £1.7 million Engine Shed development, which provides a place for growing businesses to work in conjunction with the university and other local businesses.

From the station forecourt, road links provide a quick connection to the M32, M4 and M5, and you can also connect to a city-wide bus network. The city centre is a twenty minute walk from here, or you join one of the urban cycle routes that span across the whole city — a thirty minute ride takes you to any of Bristol’s neighbourhoods, and numerous smaller business districts including the Bristol Robotics Lab, the Bristol and Bath Science Park, and the home of Concorde at the Filton Enterprise Area.

Britain’s Answer to Silicon Valley

Recently named as one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, Bristol has a rounded economy — and one that is set apart from other top tier cities by its focus on grassroots social enterprise, financial services, and of course IT.

Bristol’s strong local community has helped foster a thriving alternative economy, with many streets — like the bustling Gloucester Road — home to independent shops instead of generic chains, and many local services accepting the city’s own currency: the Bristol Pound.

The financial sector, which dates from the slave trade of the eighteenth century, also remains a firm feature of city life, but it’s the thriving digital sector that has helped put an edge on Bristol’s economic growth, which accountancy firm EY predicts will continue by 2.3 percent each year until 2020.

The presence of high-tech and IT businesses in Bristol has put the city on the international stage, helping it to not only compete with other digital hubs like London and Cambridge but to outperform them in many areas.

A strong regional support network, with initiatives like Invest Bristol and Bath and TechSPARK, has helped to build this success, along with a skilled local talent pool. Bristol is home to four leading universities, and a large percentage of students choose to stay in the region after graduation. Immigrants too are choosing Bristol more than other places in the UK, revealing the real catalyst for Bristol’s success — livability. Widely recognised as one of the most livable destinations in the UK, having a business based in Bristol makes retaining talent, and drawing in the fresh talent needed to succeed, much easier.

What to Consider When Relocating

Advance Planning:

The degree of complexity involved in moving an IT business is often underestimated, and unforeseen delays can have dire consequences, no matter how great place you are moving to is. Moving your business requires significant planning, and often takes longer than imagined, so it’s advisable to start planning the move for a minimum of twelve months ahead.

Many companies will choose to keep the same managed service provider (MSP) for their IT infrastructure and will need to liaise closely with them through the process. If you have been considering switching MSPs, then now would be a good time. Otherwise, you will need to arrange a site visit of both locations with the MSP to check the spec of the new office:

  • Room dimensions – Is there physically enough space for servers, network equipment, and any other specialised equipment?
  • Electrical capacity – is the office supplied with enough power for your servers and network to run? Does the building support structured cabling?
  • Security – is there a safe space to store servers and sensitive equipment with no possibility of information getting into the wrong hands?

Digital Infrastructure:

Bristol is well-connected with high-speed fibre optics, a 5G testbed, and according to some sources, the fastest 4G internet available in the UK. But, you will need to check with your ISP (internet service provider) what internet speed is provided in your new office.

If not managed through your MSP, coordinating all the connections required will take careful planning by an internal manager, who will need to make an inventory of all IT & telecoms services contracts, and decide whether to stay or switch.

Physical Infrastructure:

Depending on the arrangement you have with your MSP, you may need to make an inventory of IT and Telecom equipment.

Once you know exactly what you have, you can decide where things might fit in the new office, and what you might need to dispose of. This can be a good time to upgrade or replace old hardware and dispose of old or broken items.

Once you have decided on locations for equipment, you can then determine where you might need new power outlets and telephone & network cabling points to suit the new building.