Why Southampton is Britain’s next big tech city

Written by Hannah Waddington | Blog | UK Economy | Technology | Posted 22/08/2019 10:59:01

Southampton is booming – the South Coast city and newly-dubbed ‘Super Cluster’ has established itself as a growing UK tech hub. Could it be home to the next step in your tech career?

The South of England has experienced incredible growth over the last few years, especially seen in the case of Southampton. Having recently been named as a top 5 Super Cluster city, Hannah Waddington, Sanderson’s Southampton Regional Manager, delves into why the city fully deserves its new accolade:

In May 2019, Starling Bank announced that they would be opening up a new office in Southampton, which may have been a shock to some! Personally, I was delighted to hear the news, which is not surprising given that I manage Sanderson’s Southampton office but also because I have grown increasingly passionate about this city, specifically in terms of business and technology.

One of the reasons Starling Bank chose Southampton, was based on the announcement that Southampton had been named in the top 5 of CBRE’s ‘Super Cluster’ category, part of its EMEA Tech Cities: Opportunities in Technology Hotspots report. It was 5th is a list of 23, beating the likes of Cambridge and Bristol, also renowned UK tech hubs.

For some, Southampton would not be an obvious choice, but given its new Super Cluster status (a category focused on mid-sized businesses with between 20-70,000 tech employees), it’s apparent that there are plenty of other reasons as to why technology-driven businesses may choose the South Coast city as its new home.

Southampton University is a world leader in technological advances and is a research-intensive institution. It is a member of the SETsquared partnership, a business incubator that supports start-ups and innovative businesses and whose Southampton centre is based at Southampton Science Park, a 72-acre innovation hub. The University’s Web Science Institute has also initiated the Z21 Innovation Fund which “proposes to drive innovation into the real world”. In 2001, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, even accepted a chair at the School of Electronics and Computer Science.

Pic of Southampton harbour at night
Southampton came 5th in CBRE's 'Super Cluster' category, beating the likes of Cambridge and Bristol.

We have also seen the creation of Tech Solent, a joint venture by local law firm Coffin Mew, Southampton Solent University, Cogeco Peer 1 and Southampton City Council to establish the Solent region as a centre of tech activity. They recently held their inaugural conference (sponsored by Starling Bank and toob), where Dame Wendy Hall, one of the world’s leading computer scientists, discussed her goal of making Southampton a UK centre of AI.

If the above weren’t enough, in December, Southampton will host the inaugural South Coast Tech Awards. The awards are an opportunity to celebrate the blossoming tech industry in the Solent region and recognise the innovation taking place. In fact, Sanderson will be sponsors of the ‘Tech Employer of the Year’ category which rewards businesses who show that their company are great places to work and who value their employees.

This recent drive in the promotion of entrepreneurialism has resulted in huge increase in turnover driven from digital technology to £2.1 billion, up 41% from 2014-2017. With growth initiatives such as these, businesses will undoubtedly grow as they become more established.

One key ingredient for growth however, is talent.

Local businesses, especially the larger local employers, have to start doing more to attract and retain younger, millennial talent rather than losing them to London and beyond. This can be done with a drive to improve working cultures, remote working and training programmes. As there is a severe shortage of talent in the UK across many regions, each one needs to do all it can to compete for the very best.

So, what would attract prospective candidates to the South Coast and make them stay there?

You may be thinking that salaries are the top priorities for candidates and, whilst Southampton wouldn’t have to worry about that – the city has a higher-than-average salary for IT outside of London, coming 3rd out of 19 cities and a salary of £48,127 – there are other ways to attract and retain top talent.

I believe we need to focus on 3 key areas:

  • As of July 2019, Southampton’s scored a Quality of Life index of Very High, due to its low cost of living and abundance of green spaces and proximity to the water. Companies should do their best to promote these factors to potential candidates as benefits of settling in Southampton as opposed to other cities such as London.
  • If your company employs flexible working and wellness practices within work, these should be at the forefront of your marketing materials – research shows that 51% of employees want more flexible working options, showing the importance of establishing a work-life balance in the workplace. Work perks such as health insurance and cycle-to-work schemes are also held in high regard by potential employees.
  • Recruit more creatively – establish a company infrastructure to recruit talent, rather than specific skills. Put in place the necessary training for your technical teams and take advantage of the talent you already have in your organisations to do this.

It’s evident that Southampton is one of the new up-and-coming tech regions in the country and now more than ever, companies and candidates are flocking to the South Coast to establish themselves there.

If you’re wanting to grow your company and take that next step, contact Hannah or our Southampton office for more information on how we can help with your talent acquisition.

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