UK's Top Startup Hubs

The UK's Top Startup Hubs (Outside London)

Sarah Cheesman, Updated: 16 January 2024

You may have noticed that we released our Equity Investment Market Update for Q3 2023 recently, in which we found that last quarter, equity investment distribution continued to improve on a regional level.

While the capital’s share of deals increased from 43% in Q1 2023 to 50% in the most recent report, this is still lower than the 53% that was seen in Q1 2022. Though there could be a multitude of reasons for this, such as foreign investors pulling back, it inspired us to look beyond the capital to the other thriving startup hubs that exist across the UK.

In this article, we’ve explored the top five regions for startups outside of London by the number of active high-growth companies in the respective local authority. For this ranking, we have understood active companies as ones that are in the seed, venture, growth established or zombie stages.

Top UK cities for startups and scaleups



Number of active high-growth companies: 589
Total private companies: 102,551

Bristol, located in the South West of England, has secured the fifth spot on our list with a notable 589 high-growth companies calling it home. The latest financial figures reveal that Bristol’s high-growth companies generated a total turnover of £4.15b, averaging £42.4m per company, and boasting an average workforce of 67 employees per company.

Bristol’s female-founded high-growth companies constitute 18.9%, surpassing the national average. The city has experienced steady growth in active companies since 2012, with 368 additional companies becoming operational over the last decade—although the growth rate has somewhat flattened out in the past two years.

Investment trends in Bristol

Despite being home to fewer high-growth companies, Bristol has closed more funding rounds and raised more investments than Birmingham. With 746 rounds since the start of 2013, Bristol-based startups have raised a total of £2.20b.

The top funded active company in the city is the University of Bristol spinout, Graphcore, which has raised £528m across nine rounds since 2016 date. Other well-funded companies are OVO Group (£259m across four rounds) and Immersive Labs (£151m across six rounds).

The city’s top funders by number of fundraisings participated in are Seedrs and Bristol Private Equity Club (both at 28) and Crowcube (17).

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Number of active high-growth companies: 598
Total private companies: 305,968

Birmingham ranks fourth on this list with 598 active high-growth businesses calling it home. In the latest financials, the city’s companies turned over a total of £5.93b, with an average turnover of £41.4m per company. Startups and scaleups in the city have an average of 73 employees per business, higher than Edinburgh, Manchester, and Bristol at 44, 66, and 67 respectively, but less than Leed’s average of 115. There has been a consistent upward trend in active companies, with a total increase of 289 companies over the past decade.

When it comes to gender equality, Birmingham fares close to the national average with female-founded companies making up 17.7% of the high-growth startup ecosystem, in comparison to the national average of 17.8%.

Investment trends in Birmingham

Since the start of 2013, the city has raked in £543m in fundraisings across 465 rounds. Investment levels have remained fairly stable over the past decade, with a spike in 2017 and a slight drop in 2022. With the help of a huge equity round to the tune of £60m held by Joblogic, the city is on track to break its record of equity investment raised this year.

Other big raisers in the city include Onto (£83.2m through seven rounds), Market Location (£42m across one round), Aquapak (£39.4m across four rounds), and Macc Care (£32m across three rounds).

The top funders in the city are Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), which has participated in 15 fundraising rounds, Minerva Business Angel Network with 13 rounds, and Mercia Fund Managers with 12 rounds.



Number of active high-growth companies: 673
Total private companies: 161,379

Leeds, the third most popular city for high-growth companies in the UK, boasts an impressive 673 businesses that collectively employ 77k individuals. We found that the city’s high-growth companies generated an impressive £10.4b in turnover, according to the latest financials.

Among the popular sectors in this Yorkshire city are marketing services, which constitute 7.6% of the area’s high-growth companies, SaaS, which accounts for 9.4% of startups in the city, and manufacturing and engineering, which make up 6.8% of high-growth businesses.

However, when it comes to gender equality among founders, Leeds lags behind both Edinburgh and the national average, with only 16.5% of high-growth company founders being female.

Investment trends in Leeds

Over the last decade, there have been 512 announced or unannounced fundraising rounds raising a combined £941m in Leeds. Much like Edinburgh (and the rest of the country), deal volumes fell in 2022 from 2021, but in contrast, the amount of equity invested actually increased by 4% from £147m to £153m.

AMO Pharma, a company that develops drugs to treat debilitating diseases, is Leeds’ best-funded active high-growth company. It has received £62.8m in equity funding across four rounds. Other well-funded companies in the city include Pharmacy2U, Maria Mallaband Care Group, Encon Insulation, and ARC Inspirations.



Number of active high-growth companies: 691
Total private companies: 178,851

With 691 active high-growth companies, employing a workforce of over 45k, Manchester has leapfrogged Leeds to take second place in this year’s ranking. Over half the city’s companies (55.9%) are in the seed and venture stages, indicating a blooming startup ecosystem. Despite this, the number of new companies founded in Manchester has been decreasing since 2017, falling from 60 new foundations in 2018 to just 20 in 2022.

When it comes to gender equality, Manchester trails behind the national average with only 15.8% of companies in the city being female-founded. The business and professional services industry is the most common here with 56.6% of all high-growth companies operating within it. Within this industry, the most popular sectors are analytics and tools, marketing services and recruitment agencies.

Investment trends in Manchester

The city of Manchester has seen 986 announced or unannounced fundraisings since the beginning of 2011, which have raised a combined £1.75b. It’s worth noting that the spike in equity raised in 2019 is attributed to two rounds worth £1.13b, raised by the now-insolvent Greensill.

The most active investors in Mancunian companies by deal volume include Praeture Ventures (contributing to 26 fundraisings), NPIF Equity Finance (with 23 fundraisings) and Seedrs (with 18 fundraisings). Raising £125m across two rounds, Renaker—a property development and real estate business—is the most-funded, currently active Manchester-based company. Other big raisers in the city include Iduna, a cleantech that develops sustainable infrastructure, Peak, creator of AI-based software used to improve business efficiencies and decision-making, and Sorted, a developer of software for carriers and retailers for the delivery process.

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Number of active high-growth companies: 705
Total private companies: 116,318

The best city for startups in the UK, outside of London, is the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. The medieval city is now home to 705 high-growth companies, employing an estimated 31k people.

Artificial Intelligence, fintech, and digital security are all popular sectors in the city, with a combined 11.9% (84) of all Edinburgh-based companies falling within these sectors. By contrast, only 7 companies operate in the telecommunications sector (1.0%), making it the city’s least active industry.

In Edinburgh, 20.5% of high-growth businesses with known founder genders are female-founded, slightly higher than the national average of 17.8%.

Investment trends in Edinburgh

Since the beginning of 2011, 1,300 announced fundraisings have been held by Edinburgh-based companies, raising a combined £1.68b. Having participated in 135 of these fundraisings, the most active fund in Edinburgh companies is the Scottish Co-Investment Fund, managed by Scottish Enterprise.

Despite equity investment dropping nationally in 2022, Edinburgh saw an uptake in the amount of money invested into the city from 2021. Though in line with the national trend, deal volume did decrease in 2022.

Securing £177m across five rounds, GoFibre—a startup providing full fibre and wireless broadband in rural areas—is currently the most funded active company in Edinburgh. Other Edinburgh-based companies that have secured significant VC investment include online games developer Build A Rocket Boy (£144m across four rounds) and vertical farming company Intelligence Growth Solutions (£66.3m across 13 rounds).

Looking to the future

Outside of the UK’s capital, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and Bristol are the quintessential epicentres of innovation, each distinguished by their own unique blend of historical significance, industrial resurgence, community cohesion, economic dynamism, and creative impetus. These cities epitomise the diverse and dynamic nature of the UK’s entrepreneurial landscape, serving as crucibles for the convergence of talent, resources, and ambition.

With each of these areas on an upwards trajectory, we anticipate a sustained impact going forward as they continue to boost the UK’s business and innovation efforts in the future.

To find out more about how Beauhurst can help your business locate and analyse accurate, up-to-date information about the UK’s startups, book a demo or get in touch with a member of our team today.

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