Birmingham launches “assault on Old Street” to attract London tech firms

Birmingham has thrown down the gauntlet to Tech City, vowing to become a tenacious competitor in attracting new investment.

Greater Birmingham, which already boasts one of Britain’s biggest tech economies, has taken over Old Street tube station with a high-impact advertising campaign, designed to grab the attention of digital entrepreneurs.

The assault on Old Street seeks to encourage ambitious digital firms from Shoreditch to look to Greater Birmingham as the first choice to expand and grow their business. Business Birmingham, the city’s official inward investment programme, believes it can itself attract 10,000+ new tech jobs by 2020 as the digital boom spreads from London to the regions.

The city has put together investment support packages specifically targeting digital enterprises that have started life in London, but need a cost effective location with an established digital community in which to grow. Opportunities include the City Centre Enterprise Zone which aims to promote development by supporting small and medium sized businesses in key sectors through business rates relief, access to high speed broadband, and simplified planning.

Greater Birmingham is already home to 6,000 tech firms employing nearly 40,000 people. Tech firms boost the region’s economy by in excess of £1.6bn every year. Marketers believe the city is perfectly placed to capitalise on constraints to growth in London that include a squeeze on office space and cost pressures. Talent is another issue, with almost half of London digital firms complaining that a talent shortage is inhibiting their growth, according to recent figures from independent group Tech London Advocates.

The move marks the start of a bold push which Marketing Birmingham believes will convince tech start-ups and established firms to expand into Greater Birmingham.

Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham, said: “Tech firms are increasingly looking to Birmingham’s offer. The city has a huge, established and exciting digital community and a wealth of talented, young coders and entrepreneurs. There’s no reason why Tech City should suck in all the attention and investment from Government. If Britain wants to compete in the global tech economy, we must unleash the power of regional cities like Birmingham.”

Surging tech growth contributed to record breaking Foreign Direct Investment figures released for Greater Birmingham last week. Digital firms accounted for a quarter of all investment projects in the city region last year. Over the past decade, tech has accounted for more & more investment in Birmingham, and is beginning to rival the area’s traditional industries such as advanced manufacturing.

In Digbeth, the former industrial area at the epicentre of Birmingham’s tech hub, commercial property prices come at a third the cost of London property. The area is one of several important tech hubs in the city and is adjacent to Eastside, future home of the High Speed Rail terminus and landmark 350 acre Curzon Street development.

40,000 students study tech-related degrees in Birmingham each year . Greater Birmingham is already home to over 20% of the UK gaming sector and the city is well on the way to becoming the UK’s leading e-commerce hub.

Nick Craig, Studio Head of Codemasters Birmingham said “Birmingham has an outstanding pedigree in gaming, stretching back over 25 years. There’s an incredibly vibrant and fast-growing digital cluster in the city. We knew there was the skills-base, infrastructure and space to support our plans, without breaking the budget.

“There’s a real buzz about the place. The universities are vibrant, the local council is doing a great job bringing in new investment, there’s plenty of support from organisations like Business Birmingham, and the strength of the digital sector means a fantastic talent pool to recruit from.”

Marketing Birmingham’s tech campaign will run in and around Shoreditch and Old Street, in the heart of Tech City. It marks the beginning of two months of campaigning spanning outdoor, online and PR platforms.

On 2nd July, City tech firms are invited to an event to discover the opportunities in Greater Birmingham. The event will showcase of the city’s digital and tech credentials, with guest speakers from Google, ASOS & the BBC – for more info email [email protected].