Bradford - The new Silicon Valley?
Last week, Barclays Business Banking released their SME Growth Factors Index, an in-depth report analysing the conditions for SMEs in cities across the UK, ranking them based around several key factors for business growth. The report concluded that Bradford, our home city, was the single best location in the UK for emerging businesses, followed by Leicester and Coventry respectively - but what makes Bradford stand out from other areas?
The Index points out 12 distinct growth factors for SMEs, ranking a number of UK cities based around these, including road infrastructure, commercial rent, the annual survival rate for start-up companies, available relief for business rates, and the availability of ultrafast Internet connectivity.
Ultimately, Bradford came out on top of the Index by taking the number one spot in 4 of the 12 categories, beating out all other cities in the following categories:
Business Rate Relief: With a wide range of relief available for SMEs, particularly through the Supporting Small Business Relief Scheme (SSBR), which limits the amount which rate bills can increase annually for small businesses, Bradford took the number one spot for the availability of relief.
Road Infrastructure: Given the city’s high level of accessibility through roads and surrounding motorways, Bradford stands out here - a major advantage for SMEs working locally or regionally, while also opening the door to effective marketing possibilities.
Job Vacancies: With job vacancies in Bradford typically being filled quickly, SMEs usually won’t experience much difficulty when it comes to quickly finding the right people for the roles they create, particularly with a number of training programmes available round the city.
Commercial Rent: Commercial space in Bradford can be rented at a surprisingly low rate, with space costing £13.75 per square foot on average - compare to Wakefield’s £16/ square foot, for instance. This gives SMEs a major foot up, letting them rent without costs becoming a major problem.
While many Bradford businesses use standard broadband connectivity, we’re working to vastly broaden the availability of ultrafast connectivity for SMEs in a number of ways. With our ultrafast DarkLight Internet available across Bradford and many surrounding areas, we’re giving Bradford-based companies the ability to bring in truly world-class connectivity. We also work to promote a number of cost-saving measures like the Gigabit Connectivity Voucher scheme, which cuts a full £2500 off the cost of installing DarkLight, making it completely free to upgrade to ultrafast connectivity in the majority of cases.
While the report points to Bradford, Coventry and Leicester as particularly stand out areas for business development, it also points out something of a disconnect between potential and practical, with the cities seeing relatively few actual start-ups (16,800 in Bradford since 2012) compared to lower-performing cities like Birmingham.
There’s definitely a lot to be done when it comes to increasing the actual numbers of businesses starting up in Bradford - which is part of why we’re proud to be supporting a number of regional initiatives designed to benefit emerging companies.
Firstly, over the last year, we’ve been working with Leeds City Region-based organisation Digital Enterprise, who have run a number of programmes aimed at benefiting SMEs around the region, including Bradford. Along with two voucher programmes, Digital Enterprise have recently been working to expand their Digital Knowledge Exchange service, a programme designed to improve digital literacy for SMEs, helping them get the best out of technology, from social media and data analytics to Cloud computing and connectivity.
As part of the Knowledge Exchange, Digital Enterprise have recently appointed a panel of Digital Champions, working to directly support SMEs. Exa’s National Business Development Manager, Simon Eagles, is one of the first of these Digital Champions, while our team works to promote Digital Enterprise and other local programmes (like the Gigabit Connectivity Voucher scheme) on an ongoing basis.