Tech City Contender: Innovation Birmingham Campus
As new research reveals that 70% of London-based tech startups are struggling to grow, our new blog series takes a look at some of the UKΓÇÖs best alternatives to Tech City.
Just last year, Tech Crunch was tipping Birmingham to become ΓÇ£ΓÇ£BritainΓÇÖs BerlinΓÇ¥ for techΓÇ¥. We think thatΓÇÖs reason enough to give BirminghamΓÇÖs tech scene some serious consideration.
About Innovation Birmingham Campus
Birmingham Science Park was built in 1982 and is actually the UKΓÇÖs third oldest science park. In 2013, as part of preparations for the Digital Plaza, the science park was split into two separate campuses: Innovation Birmingham Campus and Science & Technology Campus. Innovation Campus is the main hub for Birmingham tech businesses.
WhoΓÇÖs based here?
Innovation Birmingham Campus is a vibrant hub of tech startups, creating everything from payment apps to education services. The campus also has a particularly good reputation for gaming tech.
ThereΓÇÖre too many to name them all, but some notable tech startups in the area include:
- Soshi Games ΓÇô social games company
- Whisk ΓÇô recipe app founded by Apprentice runner-up Nick Holzherr
- Hobzy ΓÇô hobby sharing platform
- SocialSignIn ΓÇô social media management tool used by the NHS among others
- Meducation ΓÇô online medical education platform
- Droplet ΓÇô mobile social money app
- CrowdControl ΓÇô social profile tool with an emphasis on security for large organisations.
Mentoring and funding
Looking to kick-start your tech business? Birmingham offers tech startups a number of options, including:
- Entrepreneurs for the Future (e4F): Hosted at Innovation Birmingham Campus, this programme gives startups access to mentors, investment days and tech support.
- The RIC Venture programme: Specifically supports low-carbon tech innovations.
- Oxygen Accelerator: ┬ú200,000 annual fund to support up to ten tech teams.
- Launch48: business startup hackathon.
Birmingham tech community: Learning and networking
A diverse tech scene means a variety of opportunities to meet with others and learn from their experiences.
Innovation Birmingham Campus hosts a wide range of events for its tech community, including a regular programme of talks covering everything from corporate law to exporting, gaming to funding. The Future Gaming & Digital Conference is a particular highlight on the calendar.
Those looking for more informal gatherings will enjoy the monthly Tech Wednesday meet-up which gives startups the opportunity to demo projects and get feedback. ThereΓÇÖs also a wide range of more specific meetups hosted across the city, including the regular WordPress Birmingham Meet-up, the NoSQL and Big Data meetup, and Health 2.0, which brings together developers, entrepreneurs and NHS medical practitioners. Ladies in tech may want to pop along to the Birmingham Girl Geeks group which hosts regular social events and dinners for women working in technology, media and science.
Want to talk business over a beer? Urban Coffee hosts the monthly Birmingham Entrepreneurs Meetup.
The Birmingham tech talent pool
With five universities, Birmingham offers tech startups a large talent pool of graduates with skills spanning business, creative and tech.
- The University of Birmingham: Voted The Times University of the Year 2013-14, undergraduate courses include Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science with Business Management. Computer Science, Robotics, and Software Engineering are taught at Masters level.
- Birmingham City University (BCU): Offers a wide range of tech degrees, including specialisms in Computer Games Technology. Visual Communication degrees with specialist tracks in Film and Animation or Graphic Communication are also likely to be of interest. A range of Gamer Camp short courses are also taught on campus.
- Aston University: With both a highly successful Business School and a school of Engineering and Applied Science, look out for recent graduates in Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, Multimedia Computing and a wide range of business specialisms.
- University College Birmingham (UCB): Offers a selection of business courses, including Business Enterprise, Marketing with Events Management, and Marketing Management. MBA courses are also taught here.
- Newman University: Less well known than the others, BirminghamΓÇÖs smallest university teaches a range of business courses at undergraduate level and a foundation degree in business and media production.
The big picture: The Big City Plan
Birmingham City Council has big plans for the future of the city. Much of the city centre has been designated as an enterprise zone and is set to benefit from significant investment over the coming decade. At Birmingham Science Park, the ┬ú35m Digital Plaza will provide three new buildings, including iCentrum which will act as a showcase for the latest collaborative technologies.
Across Birmingham as a whole, the Big City Plan will underpin a series of developments which Birmingham City Council projects will bring a ┬ú2.8bn boost to the economy and as many as 40,000 new jobs to the region over the next two decades. Once the planned HS2 route is up and running, youΓÇÖll be able to nip down to see clients in London inside of an hour ΓÇô the same kind of time it currently takes to get from Milton Keynes to the capital.
All in all, the city looks to have a bright future ahead. Who knows, maybe your tech business will be part of it.
What do you think? Is Birmingham a better option than London for launching a tech startup? Maybe you run a tech startup in Birmingham ΓÇô weΓÇÖd love to hear your thoughts and experiences below.