Rise in digital companies started (2010-2013) 91%
Student population 30,000
Employees in digital companies 7,458
Brighton goes by many labels: the hippest town in the UK and the happiest town in the UK. It elected the country’s first Green MP, Caroline Lucas, and also has one of the highest densities of digital start-ups of any British region.
The case for: Brighton and its sister town Hove fuse tech know-how with a leaning towards the arts and media. “One of the strengths is the integration of business and creativity,” says Phil Jones, managing director of Wired Sussex, a business support organisation. Local enterprises tend to focus on digital, creative, marketing and advertising.
Helped by the short journey time from the capital, just under an hour by train, Brighton is sometimes called London-by-the-Sea. But residents consider its more laid-back attitude an important characteristic; the cost of living is less than London, although still not cheap. Gatwick airport is midway between the two.
A recent study by the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton estimated that the digital and creative sector contributes £1bn a year to the local economy.
Brighton start-ups talk of a sense of community and mutual support, and 84 per cent say they feel part of a digital cluster, according to the Tech Nation Powering the Digital Economy report, by TechCity UK.
The case against: “Brighton is a victim of its own success in three areas: workspace, connectivity and skills,” says Mr Jones. Talent is not scarce but is snapped up fast.
Support for start-ups: Brighton boasts The Skiff, which claims to be the biggest co-working space south of London, plus other spaces to rent at The Werks, Hove Media Centre and the Dock Hub. The Farm is a network of digital and technical freelancers who work for many of the tech start-ups and larger digital companies in the area.
Brighton has a Digital Catapult, one of a network of UK centres built to boost collaboration between scientists, engineers and business. The Brighton centre is focused on innovation that uses real-time location-based data and is hosted at The Fusebox, another work space for the creative and digital industries. The city is also home to the Happy Startup School for founders who want to measure success in “happiness as well as profits”.
Local heroes: When search engine specialist Spannerworks was bought for £10m in 2007, it brought the Hearst-owned digital marketing agency iCrossing to Brighton. Brandwatch, a social media company, is one of the standout successes. It has raised $64m and recently acquired London-based PeerIndex for £10m. Crunch is an online accountancy service.
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