Tech businesses are changing our lives for the better, in more ways than one. Whilst the innovation of such businesses is transforming how we communicate, transact and travel to name but a few, the continued growth of the tech sector is also creating significant employment and commercial opportunities.
To quote the 2016 Tech Nation report, 'digital tech businesses are transforming the employment landscape, driving productivity, and reimagining traditional industries.'
If the UK is to maintain its global standing in the post-Brexit era, the tech sector will be key. We must attract and nurture the world's best tech businesses, creating compelling hubs where forward-thinking tech start-ups can collaborate and grow together. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in Edinburgh.
The Scottish capital has become a tech hub because both start-ups and established businesses are able to take advantage of a powerful combination of factors. These include an excellent skills supply, particularly from the University of Edinburgh's globally renowned School of Informatics, flexible office space and government support.
Edinburgh's tech sector now accounts for one in eight businesses in the city and, according to the latest Tech Nation report, is the largest technology cluster outside London in terms of productivity. Tech, media and telecoms businesses now take up more new office space than any other category in Edinburgh.
Of course, the growth of this sector is not restricted to Edinburgh. Research from KPMG shows that technology enterprise grew in the UK by 31.3 per cent over the last five years and Tech Nation reports that digital tech industries are growing 32 per cent faster than the rest of the UK economy (in turnover). However, there is one mythical creature that elevates Edinburgh above any other UK city outside of London when it comes to demonstrating tech enterprise; the unicorn.
A tech 'unicorn' is a tech start-up business valued at more than $1bn. Once a mythical being, they are now an indication of the strength of the sector and the huge investment potential of disruptive technology. Global examples include Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat and Spotify.
There are only four tech unicorns in the UK outside London and two of these are in Edinburgh; Skyscanner, the travel search business which was bought by China's biggest online travel firm for £1.4billion in November, and FanDuel, a fantasy sports firm founded in Edinburgh, which recently merged with competitor DraftKings.
Both are based at the same Edinburgh 'unicorn stable', our 19-acre, mixed-use Quartermile development in the city centre, creating a tech powerhouse that is not replicated anywhere else in the UK.
Part of Edinburgh's tech sector success can be attributed to the notion of placemaking applied on certain developments. This is a collaborative process included in Scottish Planning Policy which covers planning, design and development helping to create places in which people want to live, work and relax.
At Quartermile, for example, we have successfully integrated retail, leisure and residential development with flexible office space creating a community which has a reputation as not only Edinburgh's, but the UK's, prime residential and commercial location. Quartermile is an ideal environment for tech companies which isn't replicated anywhere else in the city.
All of this is just across the road from the University of Edinburgh which delivers an ongoing supply of highly skilled people. The result is a real community; a thriving place where tech businesses want to be and their people want to work.
It has become a proven model which continues to attract tech start-ups to Quartermile and to Edinburgh. If the UK truly wants to become the place to start and grow a global digital business, more cities must take Edinburgh's lead.
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