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Is London losing its crown as the business centre of the UK?

London may be one of the world’s financial capitals, and a sought-after place to live and work, but recent research by Sungard Availability Services would suggest it isn’t the best base for building a business. Instead, Cambridge was named as the overall ‘best city for UK business’.


The study analysed factors such as population density, start-up survival rate, the price of office space and graduate numbers, which combine to determine the availability and affordability of talent, resources and infrastructure.


London failed to make it into the top three, thanks in part to high rental prices and volume of competition. With office space in the capital going for an average of £406 per square foot, northern powerhouses like Edinburgh (£66/sq ft), York (£90/sq ft) and Sheffield (£128/sq ft) are tempting start-ups away from the capital with affordable premises. In exchange for eye-watering rents, however, London-based businesses gain access to well-developed transport networks, a high concentration of customers and proximity to potential partners.


Despite being regarded as a hub for new businesses, the UK capital could only manage ninth place when it came to the survival rate of start-ups. York, Cambridge and Brighton topped the study, indicating that these alternatives have the infrastructure, employees and support schemes in place to help fledgling businesses.


Unsurprisingly, London has by far the highest population density, with 5,100 people per square kilometre. Housing a graduate population of 60% (compared to Oxford’s 31%), it has a rich seam of talent to keep growing businesses supplied with the skilled workforce they need to fulfil their entrepreneurial vision.


A fast and reliable internet connection is vital to all businesses in today’s “always-on” culture. Despite digital infrastructure initiatives being perceived as overwhelmingly London-centric, the capital lags behind Oxford, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Brighton, with an average download speed of 22Mbps. 


However, London emerged as the most resilient location in the UK when it comes to combating cyber security breaches. With Silicon Roundabout hosting around eight times as many tech firms as anywhere else in the UK, it seems firms are putting this IT know-how to good use by ensuring they have implemented the robust and reliable cyber defences required for 21st century business.


See the full results of the study on this interactive map:

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