Director, Technology, Engineering and Construction

New Innovation Index shows Edinburgh best UK city for Innovative Technologies outside of London, Glasgow also excels

A new UK Tech Innovation Index published today by the Open Data Institute and the Digital Catapult shows the most active innovation communities in the UK by industry sector, captured in an online interactive map. It shows that Edinburgh has the most active tech innovation community outside of London, closely followed by Glasgow in fourth place.  Of the 36 UK cities included in the Index, the top four cities ranked are London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Glasgow.  Aberdeen features in 20th place, with Dundee following in 22nd place.

Looking at specific tech sectors, Edinburgh has some of the most active innovation communities outside of London:

  • 2nd for Internet of Things
  • 2nd in Data Innovation
  • 2nd in Artificial Intelligence Innovation
  • 2nd in Health Innovation
  • 3rd in Creative Innovation
  • 5th in Virtual Reality Innovation

The research was undertaken as a first step to gain a clearer picture of the UK innovation landscape, to help inform business and public sector decision-making around investment and growth.

Data on tech events, conferences and meetups from a range of sources have been brought together with data such as academic publications, local skills measures, business start-up rates, and research and development spending. Together these shed new light on where British innovation is flourishing. The rankings show how active the innovation community is in 36 of the largest UK cities, across seven key industrial sectors:

  • Data
  • Manufacturing
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Health
  • Internet of Things
  • Machine learning
  • Virtual Reality

The rankings show that:

  • Tech innovation is unsurprisingly strong in London. However, innovation is not limited to the South East: there are highly active hubs across the country, including Liverpool, Edinburgh, Reading and Cardiff
  • Larger cities such as London, Manchester, and Glasgow have strong innovation ecosystems across all measured sectors.
  • In many places, innovation is aligned with local industries. For example, Aberdeen, with its strong offshore engineering industries, and Birmingham and Coventry with their strong car industries, are today very strong in manufacturing innovation.
  • Smaller cities often have a few areas of particular strength, such as Internet of Things in Reading, and Manufacturing in Aberdeen and Coventry.

David Smith, Sector Director of Digital and Engineering at Scottish Enterprise, commented:

“I’m pleased but not surprised to see both Edinburgh and Glasgow in the top four UK locations for innovative technologies.

“Scotland already has around 150 data innovation and exploitation companies with a combined turnover of £1 billion.  We also have world-class academic excellence and data assets such as Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics, a collaborative culture between industry, public sector and academia to breed further innovation which includes DataLab - our dedicated data innovation centre - and a growing number of investors choosing Scotland as a location for their data-driven businesses.

“Substantial new investment is planned, particularly in data and artificial intelligence capabilities, which will accelerate growth in innovative technologies.  Scotland is well placed to secure its position as the data innovation capital of Europe within the next few years.”

Tom Forth, Head of Data at ODI Leeds, who led the project, explains how it is different from other pieces of innovation research:

“Our approach to measuring innovation pioneers new ways of picking out the early signs that new industrial clusters are emerging. Our results are largely as expected, with large cities such as London, Manchester, and Glasgow performing strongly in all areas and well-known overachievers such as Edinburgh, Cambridge, and Brighton punching well above their weight.

“Interestingly, our techniques seem to spot early signs of more focused excellence. In Liverpool and Reading we see real strength in Internet of Things. Leeds does very well in Health. And in Aberdeen and Coventry, Manufacturing is notably strong. There are early signs of other clusters emerging in other new fields, right across the country. The data behind these rankings is improving all the time, as more tech events are held, and more scientific papers are published. We hope that by sharing our research at this early stage we can learn from others and improve our techniques even more quickly.”

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute, said:

“This new research reveals that innovation around data isn’t a London-based phenomenon, with the current methodology highlighting active communities in Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton and Southampton. Using real-time data to identify clusters should help inform innovation policy, where it’s especially important to respond to how things are, rather than how they were, as well as the behaviour of businesses and jobseekers. Developing measures like this in the open also helps to increase our understanding about what drives innovation and which activities create real impact. I’m looking forward to seeing Tom’s work being discussed, adapted and built on.”

Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO at the Digital Catapult said:

“This research confirms and subverts wide-held views on the UK tech industry. While London continues to be a heavyweight player on the global tech stage – innovation is by no means confined to the capital. We’re seeing high potential clusters of innovation across the UK, linked to opportunities identified within the tech sector or aligned to universities or dominant regional industries. Our own Digital Catapult regional centres reflect this too."

Notes to editors

For more information contact Helen Desmond,, 07984 813831

The Index was compiled by the Open Data Institute and the Digital Catapult, and was sponsored by Innovate UK.

The ODI continues to expand this research to help make it easier for people to understand UK technology clusters. A current invitation to tender is here.   

About the Methodology

The rankings incorporate data from multiple tech event calendar sites: Meetup, Eventbrite and Open Tech Calendar, and from a new system for classifying scientific publications. The algorithm built to create the rankings combines this data with more widely-used measures such as the number of start-ups in a city; nearby research and development spending; and the percentage of people with degree or equivalent qualifications.

Two accompanying blog posts give more details on the methodology. One explains how we use tech events data from three sources for the first time. Another explains how we use a preview of Microsoft's Academic Knowledge API to understand patterns in academic publications. The ranking and the scores for each city, are available under an open license on GitHub. And a spreadsheet gives full details on how each city's score is calculated (.xlsx).

About the Open Data Institute:

The Open Data Institute (ODI) is independent, non-profit and nonpartisan, founded in 2012 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt. From its headquarters in London and via its global network of start-ups, members and nodes, the ODI offers training, research and strategic advice for organisations looking to explore the possibilities of data.

You can learn more about the ODI at

About the ODI’s 5 years on campaign.

The Open Data Institute is marking its fifth birthday in 2017. Five years ago the ODI launched to catalyse an open data economy by bringing together individuals, businesses and governments from all over the world. Since then, the ODI has reached a global audience of millions, trained thousands in new data skills, supported hundreds of start-ups and unlocked over £66 million in value. We are now looking forward to the next five years: building a strong, fair and sustainable data economy by helping governments and businesses around the world get data to people who need it.

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