Relocating your Business to Bristol: Four things you need to know
A fiercely independent city with a long history of innovation, Bristol has managed to strike a balance between economic success and livability, making it one of the best places in the UK to live and do business.
The maritime trade, once responsible for so much of the city’s riches, has today given way to a diverse and thriving economy that boasts some of the highest household incomes outside London. The city can, therefore, lay claim to not only the title of happiest city in the UK, but also one of the wealthiest.
Behind Bristol’s success are several factors. Good transport links, a unique location,and a strong local community have all contributed to the success of the city. Let’s look at four reasons why you’d want to relocate your business to Bristol.
1. Bristol is well-connected
Market positioning can make or break a business, but so too can can geographic location. Bristol’s roots at the confluence of the rivers Frome and Avon made it a thriving market town and hub for maritime trade, and today, the city’s location still makes it attractive for commerce.
One of the UK’s busiest ports — the Royal Portbury Dock — is just a few miles away at Avonmouth, providing a key link for international trade. Bristol airport is another global gateway, connecting to New York and over 50 cities around Europe.
But road and rail connections will be of importance to most businesses. At less than two hours by direct train from London, Bristol is conveniently located for access to the capital and other top tier cities. Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle are all within a few hours of Temple Meads and the smaller Parkway railway station. Traveling by motorway, Bristol is also well-connected, with the M4, M32 and M5 all easily accessible.
Inside the city, neighbourhoods are knitted closely together through cycle and pedestrian links. Key centres, like the booming Temple Quay Enterprise Zone, are linked with others by a bus network — including the new citywide MetroBus, which ferries commuters as far as Aztec West business park.
And at the weekend, Bristol’s West Country location truly comes into its own. An hours drive from the buzzing city centre are coastlines and countryside — lush welsh valleys in one direction across the Severn Bridge, and the beauty of Somerset, Cornwall and Devon in the other.
2. Bristol is an economic powerhouse
Bristol’s history and unique location has fuelled the city’s economic development, which despite falling behind other top British cities in the post-war period, has resurfaced over the past few decades and is now set to become the fastest growing economy in the UK.
The innovation that made this growth possible builds on significant heritage. In the eighteenth century, Bristol was at the forefront of a new global trade — not only in slavery, but in colonial goods. Wealth poured in to Bristol from the new world, with merchants and traders helping to develop a local financial industry that remains a core sector of Bristol’s economy to this day.
As the docks declined in the nineteenth century, with ships growing too large to pass down the Avon into Bristol Harbour, the city moved with the tide, shifting its focus to the manufacturing and creative industries.
Building on the engineering heritage of Isambard Kingdom Brunel — whose legacy is scattered across the city — Bristol has developed a strong industry focused on modern innovation. The prevalence of semiconductor companies, which have become established that this region on the banks of the river Avon has been given its own nickname — Silicon Gorge.
In the last few decades, as innovation has shifted from hardware to software, Bristol has followed suit, and digital is now one of the most thriving industries, with over 35,000 jobs at last count.
3. Bristol has a strong support network
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely endeavour, but businesses in Bristol are backed by a strong support network, and an expanding coworking office scene. Community initiatives, partnership and collaboration opportunities give Bristol-based businesses the opportunity to flourish — be that through connecting with investors, advisors, or partners.
Startups in Bristol will find a wealth of support from leading business incubator SETsquared, based at the Engine Shed in Temple Meads, which has formed a partnership with several local universities to offers mentorship, business support, and investor readiness training to fledgling businesses.
If this collaborative environment doesn’t suit, then you can also find support from Business West — a not-for-profit company which offers support to growing local businesses, or
BRAVE Enterprise — a local business management consultancy which lets smaller businesses link up with other experienced professionals for advice and training.
More informally, regular meetups and networking events are run by Square Works, a unique collaborative workspace planned for launch in 2019, and by TechSPARK, which brings together the hipsters, hackers and hustlers building innovative businesses in the tech sector.
4. Bristol is an amazing place to live
As legions of Londoners fleeing the big smoke to Bristol find out, the secret to the city’s success is that it offers a balance between business and pleasure — Bristol is not only a great place to work, but a great place to live, and has consistently ranked among the most ‘livable’ cities in the UK.
Isolating the appeal of Bristol is difficult to do, but there are several factors that set the city above other contenders. The relatively compact city is easy to walk around, or to cycle — Bristol was named the UK’s first cycling city in 2008, and in the decade since has continued to develop.
As a cluster of compact and tightly linked neighbourhoods with close links to the centre, few places in the city feel completely inaccessible. And, each of these neighbourhoods has own individual style, reflecting some of the diversity found in larger cities like London, with less of the downside of time spent traveling.
This comparison to the capital is constant, and although Bristol can’t compete on London’s inward investment and prestige as a dominant European capital, it arguably has a much stronger sense of community and individual identity. It is this strong identity that has ultimately put the city on the map as an attractive destination to not only live but also to do work.