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The State of Bristol’s Tech Industry

There’s no doubt about it: Bristol’s tech industry is booming. As a city with a long history of innovation, Bristol it is now taking a lead in the UK’s tech sector, so much so that some have nicknamed the area, Silicon Gorge (a play on Avon Gorge and Silicon Valley).

When it comes to tech startups and innovation, there’s no more exciting place to be in the UK right now than Bristol. Let’s take a look at the current state of the city’s tech industry.

A Centre of Creativity and Innovation

Bristol is getting recognition far and wide for embracing technology and was named the UK’s leading smart city in October 2017 in the UK Smart Cities Index (this is a topic we’ve covered in our blog post ‘Bristol, The Smarter City’). The index looked at 20 cities and took various factors into account, including strategies, projects, infrastructure and connectivity – with Bristol coming out on top.

Bristol was also named the most important and productive tech cluster in the UK in Technation’s 2018 report, with 225 startups and 35,924 digital jobs in the city.

Part of Bristol’s success as a city embracing tech comes down to its history of innovation and creativity. It could be argued that this goes right back to the days of Isambard Kingdom-Brunel. Over the decades since Brunel’s iconic engineering projects in Bristol like the SS Great Britain and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the aerospace and microelectronics industries have sprung up and thrived in Bristol. The growth of the city as a hub for new tech would seem to be a continuation of this long tradition of engineering excellence and innovation.

Bristol is now an important base for various technologies. David Willetts, the minister for universities and science, highlighted eight great technologies that are important for the UK’s future growth with the south-west being home to seven of them.

Support for Bristol’s Tech Companies

This history of innovation is only partly responsible for Bristol’s thriving tech scene. A lot of Bristol’s success comes down to the high level of support provided to tech firms.

There are a number of schemes and partnerships in the city that provide investment to tech startups, helping to make Bristol a welcoming place where creativity and innovation can thrive.

The Engine Shed is a tech incubator that helps to foster tech talent where the University of Bristol, Bristol City Council and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership have joined forces to help startups get support in their areas.

Others local initiatives include:

The Bristol and Bath Creative Industries Cluster aims to provide a boost to its creative industries. Through the combination of research from universities including the University of Bristol, the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), the University of Bath and Bath Spa University, as well as companies in the creative and tech industries, it is providing millions of pounds in investment to lead to new research and innovations.

It seems to be in Bristol’s philosophy to support tech firms and nurture startups, helping them to grow and attract more talent. For example, Graphcore is a startup in Bristol that develops chips to reduce the costs of AI apps for consumer devices and driverless cars. In 2017, it managed to raise £23 million before shipping its first chips.

Home to Big Tech Firms and Innovative Startups

Bristol is now one of the top 10 tech cities in Europe after coming sixth in research from investment firm CBRE. It is a supercluster containing between 50,000 and 70,000 people employed in high-tech. Part of Bristol’s success is that it is home to numerous large tech firms that have chosen Bristol as their base, including:

  • Nokia
  • BT
  • Vodafone
  • Sony
  • Amazon

These larger firms sit alongside exciting startups and disruptive fintech companies, leading to a thriving tech scene. Some of the most exciting startups include:

  • TalkLife – a peer support network where people with mental health issues can connect with other people.
  • Hubbub – an education crowdfunding platform that launched in 2011 and provides a platform for funding for research projects and more.
  • Ultrahaptics – Developed a new technology using ultrasound waves that people can use to interact with virtual worlds with their hands.
  • Blu Wireless Technology – Working on next-generation wireless tech to provide larger and faster downloads and streaming on mobile devices.

More established companies are also involved in exciting projects. CEL, for example, is a power-tool business that launched its Robox project to develop desktop 3D printers that can be used by anyone to create almost anything.

There is a lot of exciting innovation going on in the universities too. The University of Bristol and the University of the West of England joined forces to create the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), which is the largest robotics laboratory in the UK and focuses on all kinds of different areas in robotics.

Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone

There are lots of areas where tech firms are establishing themselves in Bristol, but the most important is Temple Quarter, a Local Enterprise Zone located next to Temple Meads station.

Because it is a Local Enterprise Zone, it has financial incentives that entrepreneurs are taking advantage of. Temple Quarter is home to some of the most innovative startups and organisations in Bristol, including the Engine Shed and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Bristol’s Tech Scene Is Going from Strength to Strength

Bristol’s tech industry is thriving, and it is continuing to go from strength to strength. There is no more exciting place to be in the UK for anyone considering a career in technology.

Its history of innovation, world-class universities, large talent pool and numerous opportunities for tech startups will ensure that Bristol remains a magnet for tech skills and investment going into the future.

Whether your business is based in Bristol or elsewhere, the digital landscape is changing at a rapid pace. Make sure your business stays competitive with the help of a professional IT team. Contact us via our website or by calling 0345 880 4554 / 0117 258 1300 and speak to one of our experts today.