Birmingham is being overlooked as a tech hub – and indeed a ‘Tech City’. The vast number already employed in the tech sector, the calibre of computer science graduates from the University of Birmingham, Aston University and Birmingham City University, along with the city’s impressive stats on start-up activity all paint a solid picture. So, why does it feel like I’m fighting a losing battle when trying to change the perception of London-based influencers?
Birmingham’s tech community has four main centres of activity; Birmingham Research Park in Edgbaston, specialising in life sciences; The Custard Factory and Fazeley Studios in Digbeth, with their vibrant community of creative companies; Longbridge Technology Park; and our dynamic centre for tech start-ups at the Innovation Birmingham Campus. If, as a city – a ‘Smart City’ – we could champion these four centres in an effective joined-up fashion, perceptions should be changed overnight.
Each of these four centres has considerable growth potential to meet future demand. Other work spaces and co-working environments will – and are – emerging across the city, which is good news for the continued growth of the local economy and its variety proposition. However, promoting the four aforementioned well-established centres as the focus of a Birmingham Tech City campaign could leapfrog us ahead of other ambitious cities. Let’s learn from Cambridge, where a handful of centres with distinct offerings have made it a formidable global hotbed for tech innovation.
Effective campaign branding and clarity of message would bring much more investment and profile to Birmingham’s rapidly growing pool of tech start-ups and SMEs. It would also help to lure talented tech professionals to relocate here, turning the current trickle into a transformational flood. Birmingham’s compelling quality of life metrics have resonated with the professional services sector of late; we now need to see the same number relocating here to work in the tech sector.