Shutterstock 1472983433 Aberdeen Scotland

Aberdeen has ranked among the top places in Great Britain for having the key ingredients to support those wanting to start and grow a business, according to a new report which, for the first time, assesses the entrepreneurial potential of towns and cities across the country.

The report - compiled by a former Bank of England economist for digital firm Atos as part of its ‘Great British Enterprise’ campaign - estimates that the British economy would benefit to the tune of £34bn a year by 2030 if the local economies of towns and cities were to realise their full entrepreneurial potential over the next decade.

The report also finds that:

  • Local economies that have most unrealised potential are the ones that could benefit most from digital adoption
  • Entrepreneurial and enterprising outcomes can vary significantly within a town or city’s local economy, as well as between the local economies of different towns and cities

The analysis looked at how the local economies of 43 towns and cities across Great Britain perform on six indicators that influence the success of entrepreneurship and enterprise (such as skills levels and diversity) and on measures that represent positive entrepreneurial and enterprising outcomes (such as business survival rates).

Aberdeen was amongst the top places in Great Britain in four of the six indicators including:

  • The qualifications held by the local labour force
  • Businesses stock per head of population
  • The rate of business survival
  • The number of new business startups per head of population

Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee also all score among the top places for skills and qualifications, a key entrepreneurial indicator.

While the local economies of towns and cities have unique attributes and challenges that create the environment for entrepreneurship and enterprise to happen, digital technology is critical to unleashing the full entrepreneurial potential of the SMEs, startups and scale-ups in our towns and cities. 

In order to increase business survival rates and truly fulfil Great Britain’s entrepreneurial potential, the report states that towns need to boost support for those who want to start up a business, those that already run small businesses and also those who choose not to due to perceived barriers.

Better use of digital technology can help entrepreneurs in all industries because while not every startup business is in the tech sector, every startup needs to embrace digital technology in order to compete. More needs to be done to encourage the adoption and use of digital technology and this report points to a number of policies which could be taken forward by policymakers including:

  1. Recalibrate local business support on improving digital capability. For example, ensuring Local Enterprise Partnerships can help startups to maintain and grow their web presence, make better use of cloud computing and digitise back-office functions such as payroll.

  2. Creating Digital Enterprise Zones, areas within towns or cities which could be testbeds for the early adoption of future digital technology such as 5G mobile networks and full-fibre broadband, to help provide increased speed and capacity for startups and scale-ups.

  3. Implementing Enterprise Accounts, a digital platform – similar to the Pensions Dashboard – which would provide one place for would-be entrepreneurs to access to understand how to start up and grow a business. The Enterprise Account would contain locally tailored advice on where to find mentors, financing options and accountancy and legal advice as well as to understand tax implications of setting up a business.

The top five places across Great Britain with the most overall entrepreneurial potential are:

  1. Reading
  2. Brighton & Hove
  3. Cambridge
  4. Cheltenham
  5. Oxford 

Amongst those areas with bags of potential and that can make the biggest leaps forward are Liverpool and Newport, both of which feature in the lower grouping overall but were in the top tier for new business startups.

Adrian Gregory, Group SEVP, CEO UK&I and Global Head of Atos Syntel, said: “We should be proud that the UK is a dynamic entrepreneurial nation, but we can always do more to help the whole country fulfil its entrepreneurial potential.

“Embracing digital technology and helping businesses use it more effectively is key. If we can do that, then Great Britain could benefit from a £34bn boost to the economy, as well as helping the whole country fulfil its entrepreneurial potential.”

techUK CEO, Julian David, said: “The UK has a bright digital future. In an age when technology powers everything, we can use the power of technology to shape a better society, economy and planet. This report provides greater evidence as to why we must speed up the process of digitisation.

“Technology will be at the heart of how the UK tackles many of the most pressing challenges facing the country at this current time. This report rightly highlights how embedding digital into the UK’s entrepreneurial culture will supercharge our SMEs to tackle these challenges and further unleash the potential of the UK’s digital economy.”  

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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