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Birmingham crowned regional startup capital for seventh year

14 January 2021

Birmingham has been crowned the UK’s regional startup capital for a seventh year running, - defying challenges to business confidence posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

During 2020, 18,394 new enterprises started life in the city, marking the highest volume of startups outside London.

Overall, Birmingham experienced a 26.8 per cent uplift in business births from 2019.

The figures are the latest in an annual study from think-tank Centre for Entrepreneurs (CfE), the UK’s leading entrepreneurship foundation.

This year’s findings also ranked West Midlands locations Sandwell and Coventry highly on the list, while Wolverhampton’s registrations increased by over 30 per cent from the previous year.

Although nationwide lockdown restrictions impacted the rate of formations across the UK, the West Midlands – alongside London – had the strongest recovery of any region, recording 62% growth in June.

Neil Rami, chief executive at the West Midlands Growth Company, the official promotion agency charged with attracting investment and jobs to the region, said: “Amid the testing economic uncertainties of the last year, these latest figures demonstrate the robustness of the West Midlands’s creative and innovative entrepreneurial landscape. It is encouraging to see Birmingham uphold its leading reputation as a thriving and vibrant hub of invention for a seventh year in a row.

“Despite the prevailing challenges faced by businesses, we hope this year’s Coventry City of Culture programme and the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games will inspire more ambitious entrepreneurs to explore how the West Midlands can elevate their ideas to the next level.”

Visionary food services company Sibo is among those that chose to setup in the region in 2020. Developing tech-led solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the food industry, the company chose Birmingham’s iconic Alpha Tower as the location for its food production brand Bbite, which is creating healthy and sustainable snacks from insects and upcycled food.

Other recent additions to the region’s start-up scene include Australian-owned energy management tech firm CarbonTRACK, and Desk-as-a-Service (DaaS) provider DesksApp, which has developed a unique workspace booking platform in response to the pandemic, allowing companies to monetise unused desks and offering remote workers the opportunity to work wherever they want at an affordable cost.

Home to the largest tech and digital industry cluster outside the capital, in the last year the West Midlands has welcomed a series of exclusive programmes to boost growth across these sectors.

This includes a £1.3 million Creative Scale Up programme funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and led by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and a new peer-to-peer initiative from the region’s not-for-profit community organisation Birmingham Tech, designed to help 10 local tech companies ‘level up’.

Alongside these programmes, the region is ramping up its status as the UK’s first large-scale 5G testbed to spark innovation and investment across its established and emerging sectors.

In 2020, the West Midlands and Birmingham ranked as the UK’s top location for 5G signal coverage, and launched the UK’s first commercial 5G application accelerator – titled 5PRING – giving companies of all sizes and industries an unprecedented platform to trial and test 5G applications at speed and scale.

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