Competition increasing across UK

Scottish cities face growing rivalry for tech investment


Codebase is home to many of Scotland’s burgeoning tech firms (pic: Terry Murden)

Glasgow and Edinburgh will need to raise their game to maintain their high ranking among the top UK technology cities as rivals close in with increasingly attractive offers, according to a new report.

CBRE’S ‘Tech Cities’ report confirms the two Scottish cities in second and third place behind Manchester as the leading tech destinations outside London, but it also highlights that the gap between cities across the UK is narrowing.

One of the authors of the report says the squeeze on available office space of the right quality is a growing concern, an issue which has been highlighted in a number of property surveys.

Stewart Taylor, head of CBRE advisory & transaction services, said: “The diversification of Edinburgh’s occupier market away from its traditional pre-crash financial core is a success story of its own.

“However, the city must not take its eye off the ball. While Edinburgh ticks many of the boxes that attract tech businesses…Edinburgh’s attractiveness should not be taken for granted. 

“The report also highlights a narrowing gap between the top cities and particularly for the smaller occupiers, a focus on costs and a desire for flexible space. With office supply at a decade low and the flexible provision less than in other regional cities, the competition to attract and retain tech occupiers is going to get harder.”

Andy Cunningham, senior director, CBRE, said Glasgow is now attracting a new generation of innovative tech start-ups with a strong focus on data science. 

“We tend to think of Glasgow’s tech industry being focused along traditional sectors like banking, finance and insurance however, it’s pleasing to see other growth sectors operating at the cutting edge of alternative disciplines including biotechnology, artificial intelligence, space science, financial technology and computer games technology,” he said.

Following an inaugural CBRE study in 2017, and using the same methodology to analyse data on 65 cities throughout the UK, the new report provides an update on the top 25 locations for companies in the tech sector.  All markets were scored and ranked according to a wide range of locational pull factors for tech businesses, such as level of education, concentrations of tech businesses and employment, cost of living, cost of office space and wage levels. 

The report highlights various shifts in the cities’ tech and creative industries profiles over the last two years, with Glasgow climbing three places to become the UK’s second top tech destination outside London, and Edinburgh maintaining its third place position.

Top 10 (from the Top 25) UK Tech Destinations outside London

2019 Ranking

2017 Ranking

Change in ranking
































9 joint




9 joint




CBRE Scotland chairman Doug Smith said: “The fact that Scotland’s two principal cities are ranked so highly in the UK outside London is an incredibly positive story. The digital tech sector added £14bn to the UK economy in 2018, up 8% since 2016, and the sector is growing three times faster than the rest of the economy. The creative industries sector – which encompasses businesses from tech to media and telecoms – is therefore fundamental to the future success of Scotland.”

Scottish Digital Economy Minister, Kate Forbes, said:  “It is great to see Glasgow and Edinburgh once again recognised as powerful twin centres for tech investment in the UK. They have rightly established themselves at the vanguard of gaming, cloud computing, biotech, cyber security and data-led solutions. Their combined strength in universities, research and talent markets should see them stay at the peak of this CBRE index for years to come.”

Factors contributing to the very strong rankings scored by both Glasgow and Edinburgh are highlighted in the report.  These include high concentrations of tech businesses and tech professionals, generational diversity and a strong creative arts legacy. The two cities are also advantaged by high levels of educational attainment and access to a number of world-class universities, with strong research and computer science degree rankings.  Key findings include:

– For computer science degrees, Glasgow ranks joint first with Manchester and Edinburgh is very high too, in fifth position

– Both cities have high numbers of Information & Communications SMEs (Edinburgh fifth highest and Glasgow seventh out of 65) and high numbers of people employed in the sector (Glasgow is fifth highest and Edinburgh eighth out of 65) 

– Both cities have a large ratio of millennials (Edinburgh 28.5% and Glasgow 24.2% of the population) and a high proportion of the population qualified to NVQ 4 or above (Glasgow ranks third and Edinburgh fifth out of 65)

Collaboration call needed over 5G says tech chief

Tech chief Ricky Nicol believes that collaboration is essential to ensure that Scotland does not fall behind because of the challenges of 5G rollout.

Mr Nicol, CEO of Commsworld, is urging infrastructure firms to work together and with the Scottish government in order to bring the service to all parts of the country.

It is thought that an extra 400,000 phone masts – some 80ft high – would need to be procured and installed in order to bring the 5G network to the UK. On top of that, a full fibre rollout across the country would be essential in order to make the network fully effective – as 5G will ultimately require the near limitless capacity that fibre network provides.

Ricky Nicol

Mr Nicol, pictured, is concerned that the rural nature of Scotland could put the country at a severe disadvantage, but believes that collaborative working is the most pragmatic solution.

He said: “Infrastrusture builders and telecoms firms of all sizes need to get round a table – and be working alongside the Scottish Government to be able to overcome these unique challenges around 5G rollout.

“The Scottish Government’s Reaching 100 (R100) Scheme, which covers the whole of Scotland, is already delivering significantly better broadband infrastructure to rural parts of the country – even to places that didn’t have any connection before.

“But in order to introduce the newest and most effective 5G network, more infrastructure is needed across the whole of Scotland.

“We should value the incredible work of community broadband initiatives, such as Lothian Broadband, which has been instrumental in facilitating fibre in remote locations.

“5G is still very much in its infancy but by working together, we have a better chance of delivering the best possible connection in Scotland.”


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