The UK is proud to be a leader in technological innovation. Some of the brightest minds and world-leading experts in areas such as FinTech, MedTech and even SpaceTech, can be found in regions around the country. Explore these eight leading UK cities that are excelling in technological innovation.
York, North of England
This year, the University of York will open a £35 million research centre, working with industrial partners and world experts in the field of robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Specialist laboratories and testing facilities will investigate everything from driverless cars to hospital robots.
The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund has provided £10.5 million for the centre, with £24.5 million secured through match funding from industrial and philanthropic partners.
University of York also has a number of existing programmes in the field of robotics, including the York Centre for Quantum Technologies. The new research centre will build on existing expertise and establish three central research pillars: design, assurance and communications.
Leicester, North of England
Every year since 1967, a Leicester-built instrument or piece of technology has operated in space. Home to the iconic National Space Centre and world-leading space research at three major universities, the area has a cluster of space technology companies and major new developments that place it at the heart of future opportunities in the space sector.
Research scientists at the University of Leicester have a long and distinguished record of discovery in space science. Their work includes x-ray and observational astronomy, radio and space plasma physics (including space weather) and planetary science and instrumentation development.
In July 2021, the £100 million Space Park for research and technology companies opened - providing over 2,500 jobs.
Cheltenham’s key growth sector is cyber technologies. With 11 times the national average, Cheltenham has one of the highest densities of cyber and digital businesses anywhere in the country outside of London.
Home to GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) and the National Cyber Security Centre, Cheltenham has a long established and thriving cyber ecosystem and has attracted some of the world’s leading names such as Microsoft, Apple and IBM, which now rub shoulders with innovators, start-ups and the UK’s brightest academic minds.
The emerging £400 million Golden Valley Development – home of Cyber Central UK, which is planned for the west of the town, will only strengthen Cheltenham’s position as the UK’s cyber-tech capital.
Blackpool, North of England
From Blackpool’s famous illuminations, which first appeared in 1879, preceding the first light bulb patented by Thomas Edison by a whole year, to being the first place to have electric trams in the UK, Blackpool has a heritage of innovation in the digital technology sector.
Blackpool was home to the government Information Technology Services Agency, ITSA between 1991 and 2000. While in 2018, the town was chosen as one of 13 areas in the UK to receive the first wave of the £95 million Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN) funding, as part of a campaign to roll out full-fibre broadband.
Home to more MedTech companies than any other UK region, Birmingham and the West Midlands sits at the forefront of medical advancement.
By pioneering the use of X-ray imaging, Birmingham’s John Hall-Edwards kickstarted a whole new field of medical science. He was the first medical professional to use radiation during a surgical operation and took the first ever X-ray image of a human spine.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham was the first hospital outside London to use the radiotherapy machine CyberKnife, which uses robots to target radiation on hard-to-reach tumours with 0.1mm precision.
The pacemaker has transformed the lives of patients with heart rate conditions around the world. The technology was the result of landmark research by heart surgeon Leon Abrams and electronic engineer Ray Lightwood, both alumni of the University of Birmingham.
The University of Oxford is a global centre for AI research, with world-class studies ranging from practical applications such as robotics, driverless cars, healthcare, finance and law, through to quantitative and computational principles of AI. Researchers come from all over the world to Oxford and work across the full spectrum of artificial intelligence.
A medical diagnostics company, Ultromics, was spun out from Oxford University research in 2017. Using the power of AI, Ultromics aims to improve the accuracy of echocardiogram interpretation to above 90% – substantially better than the 80% currently achieved by human doctors.
Glasgow is a world-leader in quantum technologies, advanced manufacturing and precision medicine. The city’s universities have long been a hub for driving technological innovation in these sectors.
The University of Glasgow is home to the UK’s oldest School of Engineering, delivering world-class engineering education for more than 150 years.
The University of Strathclyde meanwhile is recognised as one of the UK’s leading technological universities with seven of its eight engineering departments ranked in the UK’s top 10 for research.
Glasgow is also fast becoming a global digital technology hub, with Scotland boasting the UK’s fastest growing digital economy outside of London.
The city is home to a thriving range of digital tech sectors including FinTech, e-commerce, enterprise software and space technology. Many of the companies who specialise in digital media and technology are based in the city’s Innovation District. They contribute to a sector worth almost £600 million to Glasgow, which includes innovators in publishing, gaming, TV, radio and learning technologies.
Leeds, North of England
FinTech is one of the major growth sectors for the Leeds City Region. Indeed, as an existing centre of excellence for both finance (as the UK’s second centre for banking, home to over 30 national and international banks) and technology, Leeds and the surrounding area have long been capitalising on the opportunities presented by this rapidly evolving sector.
A report by Leeds City Council in 2017 found that Leeds and the wider Leeds City Region have a number of inherent advantages when it comes to Fintech. These include already being home to a large number of companies playing a pioneering role in innovative Fintech arenas, including Panintelligence, Contis, and Nostrum Group (now part of Equiniti Group), and several leading universities producing a pipeline of high quality graduates in this space.
Leeds’ financial services sector is the best in the UK outside London. The region has been home to leading financial institutions since the 18th century, when the first building society outside of the Midlands was established in the city. It is also the birthplace of the first telephone bank in the UK, First Direct.