Unveiling the West Midlands as England’s tech powerhouse, with rising thriving tech cluster
The technological landscape in West Midlands, prominently anchored by Birmingham, has experienced a remarkable surge in recent years. Government statistics proudly label this region as the fastest-growing tech hub in the UK over the last biennium, boasting a burgeoning community of 2,300 startup enterprises. But it’s probably fair to say that the region is better known for its manufacturing past – the workshop of the world as it used to be known – rather than its digital present.
However the Birmingham Tech Week, scheduled from 16 – 20 October, is a must-attend event for scaleups and startups alike as the festival celebrates and promotes Birmingham’s technology sector. When founder Yiannis Maos, who started his tenure at customer experience startup, Rant & Rave, returned to Birmingham in 2018 and decided to try and launch a tech appreciation event, he was expecting to attract around 500 people or so.
As it turned out, the inaugural Birmingham Tech Week saw more than 5,000 people attending 68 constituent events across 40 locations. This was surely a sign that the city was preparing to take its place alongside the likes of London, Manchester, Cambridge and Bristol as a home for technology startups and scaleups.
From that point onward, Maos immersed himself in endeavours aimed at firmly situating the West Midlands on the map of the innovation economy. Presently, he holds the position of CEO at Tech West Mids (formerly recognised as Birmingham Tech), a non-profit entity with a mission to, in its own articulation, interlink and magnify the technological sphere within the region.
An important initial observation is that Birmingham’s modest reputation as a tech cluster disguises a wealth of bustling activity spanning diverse sectors. Notably, the town of Leamington Spa stands out as a thriving centre for the gaming industry. “It’s responsible for 25 per cent of the games out of Europe,” says Maos. Diving deeper, the enduring impact of the automotive industry, still robust in the region, is evident through mobility solution leaders like Aurrigo, a pioneer in autonomous vehicles. Simultaneously, a healthcare renaissance is underway. A recent milestone is marked by the establishment of the West Midlands Health and Wellbeing Innovation Network, a collaborative initiative uniting Bruntwood Scitech, the University of Warwick, and the Universities of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
Despite London’s enduring significance, its high costs present a challenge. Cities like Birmingham can offer a blend of talent with a more affordable cost of living and, conceivably, an elevated quality of life.