52avav

52avav awards honorary doctorates to human rights and criminology leaders. Find out more
Conflict in Israel and Gaza – support for students. Find out more

blog

These are the best places to grow your business in the UK

The UK is filled with bustling microeconomies, creating exciting business hubs for enterprises to thrive in. The latest research from 52avav Business School reveals which UK cities could set your business up for success.

By University of Law Editorial Team. Published 17 April 2024.

If you’re looking to start or expand your business in the UK, you would be forgiven for thinking that London is the place to be. However, before heading to the Capital it’s worth considering your options that are a little further afield – and according to our research, much more fruitful.

Considering the typical five-year survival rate of businesses, the volume and year-on-year increase of high growth enterprises, and the employment rate, we have determined the best cities in the UK to nurture your business this year.

It may surprise you to know that London doesn’t even make it into the top three, with Leeds taking the top spot.

The best cities to start or grow your business this year:

  1. Leeds
  2. Edinburgh
  3. Bristol
  4. London
  5. Newcastle
  6. Plymouth
  7. Belfast
  8. Sheffield
  9. Reading
  10. Portsmouth

Dr. Elizabeth Moore, Head of Leadership at 52avav Business School takes a closer look at the top five cities in our ranking:

Leeds

Among the largest cities in the country by population, Leeds was found to have the highest number of high growth enterprises outside of London, with an impressive 12.5% year-on-year increase. What’s more, Leeds also ranked in the top five for five-year business survival rates, with a rate of 42.9%.

Known as a hub for law, finance and healthcare, Leeds has put itself on the map in recent years with major investment in the city. However, there has been criticism around the public transport network in Leeds and of course the HS2 plans that have now been scrapped, which could present some challenges in terms of transport links.

Despite this, Leeds ranked consistently high across all factors in our ranking, so it’s worth researching as the next home for your business.

Edinburgh

Heading north of the border, Scotland’s capital took second place in our ranking. This Scottish city’s employment rate was its standout, coming in at 82.8%, second only to Reading in the rankings.

While Edinburgh didn’t quite make it to the top spot, Scottish Development International predicts the city’s software and IT industry is forecast to grow by 38% by 2024, so it could be an ideal home for tech start-ups.

Bristol

Almost half of all jobs and 40% of all enterprises in the West of England region are in Bristol, so it may come as no surprise to Bristolians to find their hometown in the top three of our ranking.

The city is investing significantly into its transport infrastructures and community initiatives, making it a great place to grow a team. Our research found Bristol ranked highly for its business survival rates and employment, as well as the number of high-growth enterprises – although year-on-year growth appeared much slower than the rest of the top five cities.

London

While London ranked first for the number of high growth enterprises, the city’s five-year survival rate for businesses placed it closer to the bottom of the pack at just 39.2% - almost 7 percentage points behind Newcastle’s 45.9%. With high cost and high competition, growing a business in the capital is almost always going to be a tough mountain to climb.

However, despite its lower-than-expected ranking here, there are undeniable benefits to being in London. The City is a major driver of the country’s economy, generating more than £90bn in output each year and accounting for one in every five financial service jobs in Great Britain.

Newcastle

Finally, the angel of the north, Newcastle. Famed for its nightlife, it appears this northeast city could also be a flourishing hub for businesses, ranking level with London.

The main point making Newcastle an attractive prospect for businesses is its five-year business survival rate, ranking higher than any other city in our list at 45.9% - 6.3 percentage points higher than the national average.

Although Newcastle came middle of the pack for number of high growth enterprises, its year-on-year increase stood out at 18.2%, the fifth highest growth figure in the ranking.

Pulling Newcastle’s ranking down and preventing it from coming higher up the list is its employment rate. While it has improved year-on-year, the employment rate in Newcastle sits at 71.3%, placing it in the lowest ranking cities for that factor in our list.

For the full ranking of 25 major UK cities, see our findings below:

City Five year
survival rate (%)
Rank No. of high
growth enterprises
Rank High growth
enterprise increase
Rank Employment
rate
Rank Total
Leeds 42.9 20 180 24 12.5 18 77.3 21 83
Edinburgh 41.6 17 100 19 5.2 11 82.8 24 71
Bristol 42.8 19 115 21 4.5 10 76.7 19 69
London 39.2 10 2710 25 10.6 16 74.6 15 66
Newcastle 45.9 25 65 14 18.2 21 71.3 6 66
Plymouth 45.1 24 35 6 16.7 20 74.2 14 64
Belfast 44.8 23 70 15 7.6 12 73.3 9 59
Sheffield 43.2 21 75 16 -6.2 5 75.1 17 59
Portsmouth 40.1 12 25 1 25 22 81.2 23 58
Reading 38.9 8 50 8 11.1 17 85.5 25 58
Southampton 40.1 13 35 4 75 25 75 16 58
Hull 39.4 11 40 7 33.3 24 73.6 10 52
Brighton 41.8 18 55 10 10 14 72.4 7 49
Manchester 25.9 1 160 23 10.3 15 73.6 10 49
Liverpool 26.4 2 95 18 26.6 23 69.8 5 48
Birmingham 32.1 3 150 22 15.3 19 66.9 3 47
Cardiff 40.3 14 60 11 -7.7 4 76.1 18 47
Bradford 43.3 22 60 13 -7.7 4 68.1 4 43
Glasgow 37.7 7 110 20 -4.3 6 73.6 10 43
Northampton 34.7 5 55 17 -15 1 77.2 20 43
Stoke 41.5 16 35 5 0 9 73.8 13 43
Derby 39 9 30 2 0 9 78.8 22 42
Nottingham 40.4 15 60 12 -7.7 4 64 1 32
Leicester 34.4 4 55 9 10 14 65.5 2 29
Coventry 37.3 6 35 3 0 9 72.4 7 25

 

Methodology:

  • We gathered the 25 largest cities in the UK to form our sample list
  • From the sources below we ranked each city from 1-25 on five-year survival rate, number of high growth enterprises, year-on-year increase of high growth enterprises and employment rate.
  • Those that had the highest percentages ranked at 25 (i.e. the highest score), descending to 1.
  • Ranks were totalled across all factors to give us our highest scoring city.

Sources for the ranking:

  •   

Other sources:

  •  
  • .