Our city and region is ready for you and your business. Explore this snapshot to find out why.
We have regional, national, European and global connections. To keep us ahead £1.3 billion will be invested in our networks by 2015.
Easy access to 400 million people across Europe
90% of UK consumers are within four hours travel time
High Speed 2 rail – London in less than 45 minutes
50 airlines serving more than 140 routes worldwide
Our talented people use their skills and expertise across a range of key sectors.
60% of the UK’s automotive R&D from the region
More BPFS companies than Zurich, Manchester and Edinburgh
23,700 people in architecture and engineering
500 medical technology companies, more than any other UK region
Birmingham was voted best UK city outside of London for quality of life (Mercer Quality of Living 2012).
With more than 600 parks and open spaces and Sutton Park as one of the largest urban parks in Europe there is always space to breathe
Slow down. Explore more miles of canal than Venice
Secure future - 10 Local Nature Reserves and 156 designated nature conservation sites
Indoors, outdoors, participate, watch or find space and quiet to get away from it all. You will always be able to relax and unwind.
Birmingham was ranked among the New York Times’ top 20 international destinations to visit.
Explore cuisine from more than 27 countries and dine in more Michelin star restaurants than any other English city outside London
More than 500,000 works of art in one square mile
Our large talent pool is highly ranked now. It will stay that way.
4.3 million people of working age within an hour of the city
Over 300,000 students and 100,000 graduates within an hour’s drive of the city
A digital hub - for example 21% of the UK's games industry workforce is here
Nearly 1 million people speak a second language
Our £94 billion regional economy will grow 20% by 2020
Innovative economic zones generating £1.5bn and 50,000 new jobs
Home to 75,000 companies, 1,190 of which are international
Our population will grow to 1.17million by 2018 (ONS)
Birmingham New Street helps move nearly 25million passengers annually
Europe's youngest city, with under 25's nearly 40% of our population
We are investing £18 billion by 2026 in a bold 21st Century regeneration plan.
£1.3 billion will be invested in road, rail and air networks by 2015
£25 million is going in to the Digital Media Academy and £188 million on the new Library of Birmingham
A £600 million redevelopment of New Street Station is underway
Birmingham’s dynamic pool of skilled, cost efficient IT and technical staff was enough to convince Southbank IT Solutions to invest in the city.
The London-based business provides IT support and cloud consultancy services to clients across the UK. Focusing on organisations of up to 100 staff, its impressive roster of clients includes The Royal Parks, responsible for looking after London’s Royal parks, and Lloyd’s of London insurance brokers Bannerman Rendell.
After several years of growth and increasing demand for its services, Southbank IT was finding it harder to find suitably skilled staff at an affordable rate in the capital. A situation that managing director Francis Toye recognised was only going to get worse as the economy improves.
A certain level of Southbank IT’s services can be delivered remotely, so Toye decided to explore the options for opening an office outside London. He saw the potential for significant savings on both recruitment and accommodation costs, without any dip in the calibre of talent or quality of service.
“We needed a strong pool of qualified technical staff. Competent, calm and collected people who would enable us to deliver the same high quality service to clients, but at a more cost effective rate. At the same time, the office needed to be in easy reach of London, where our HQ and some key customers are located.”
A number of different locations were considered, including Leeds and Manchester, but Toye quickly identified Birmingham as the best location to realise his plans.
He says he was impressed by the calibre and volume of potential recruits in Birmingham, while the 1.5 hour journey to London Euston – and excellent road and rail links across the country – meant it was a less risky option.
“I was immediately impressed by the quality and availability of good quality technical talent in Birmingham. There is an inventiveness and an energy I want to tap into, with an excellent flow of suitably skilled graduates coming out of the city’s universities.”
Marketing Birmingham was able to help identify and review potential locations, and also assist with the recruitment process. Toye visited a number of suitable office locations, before opening an office in Digbeth in November 2014. He says he expects to be employing six people in Birmingham within two years.
“All the offices Marketing Birmingham showed us were of great quality and offered significant savings on similar accommodation in London. We’re aiming for 25 per cent growth a year, and so far we’re on track. Going forward, I expect our Birmingham operations to be the main driver of future growth.”
Birmingham provides the right angle for The Blue Cube
A fast-growing digital design agency has joined the dynamic bustle of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter – and says business has never been better.
The Blue Cube – founded by managing director Phill Burrows in 2004 – has built websites and digital projects for companies like Debenhams, National Express, Lloyds Bank, Meccano, Guardian Media Group and Birmingham Children’s Hospital. It had been based in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, since the business was. But after ten years of growth, Burrows felt the SME needed a new base from which to chart its next exciting phase of development.
“We spoke to Business Birmingham, which have been really helpful by suggesting potential locations and putting us in touch with people. When we came to the Jewellery Quarter, it jumped out as an ideal location for a business like ours. There’s a lively community of media, technology and design companies here, with a real buzz about the place.”
The Blue Cube’s client base is spread across the UK. Burrows frequently heads to London and the team regularly travels for client visits and pitches. It was also key for staff – and future new recruits – to be able to access the office easily. So transport links were an important factor in the search.
Accessibility was one of the Jewellery Quarter’s strong points for The Blue Cube. The area is just a few minutes’ walk from central Birmingham and Birmingham New Street train station, which has regular trains to London in as little as 73 minutes. It is also in easy striking distance of the M5, giving access to the motorway network north and south.
Another important consideration, given the agency’s growth plans, was the available talent pool. Burrows is aiming to double the size of the business over the next three years, but he says it is only achievable with the right talent to support that growth.
“There’s a lot of experienced digital talent in the area, as well as a good stream of newly qualified designers and developers coming out of the local colleges and universities. We’re looking to build our links locally, so we can tap into this talent pool as we continue to grow.”
Since moving into its new studio on Frederick Street, the agency has already expanded to eight members of staff. Burrows says that being in Birmingham has opened the door to a quality of work, clients and staff that would have been much harder to tap into previously.
“This move has definitely put us on the radar more and strengthened our credibility. We’re halfway through a major project at the moment that we would have been very unlikely to win from our old base. And the pipeline is looking very strong, too. Birmingham is definitely the right place for us to be.”
Birmingham front of the grid for F1 games company
Codemasters is one of the UK’s most successful and respected gaming companies. With over 600 staff split between the UK and Malaysia, it is also one of the largest.
In spring 2013, the continuing success of games like its BAFTA award-winning F1 franchise, combined with increasing investment in next generation platforms, meant Codemasters needed more space and more recruits to meet its ambitious growth plans. Birmingham fitted the bill perfectly.
Nick Craig, head of Codemasters’ Birmingham office, said:
“Birmingham has an outstanding pedigree in gaming, stretching back over 25 years. There’s an incredibly vibrant and fast-growing digital cluster in the city. We knew there was the skills-base, infrastructure and space to support our plans, without breaking the budget.”
The company already had a base in the city, since it had acquired a rival games producer in 2008. To accommodate the planned new growth, it took over and totally refurbished another floor at its existing building, Tricorn House, in Edgbaston, increasing its space from 10,000 sq. ft to 15,000 sq. ft. It also recruited 20 new staff, boosting headcount to around 100.
The move underlined the strength of the area’s booming games industry. Tech firms in Greater Birmingham, including a wide range of SMEs in the region’s supply chain, boost the local economy by more than £1.6 billion every year. They also employ nearly a quarter of the UK games workforce and have created a hotbed for gaming talent. The £25 million Birmingham Ormiston Academy is the first specialist digital media academy in the UK, while Gamer Camp – a unique ‘finishing school’ for game developers that involves major industry mentors – was set up by Birmingham City University in 2009.
At the time of Codemasters’ investment, Simon Miles, the company’s talent acquisition manager, praised the dynamism of Birmingham’s digital cluster, the talent pool and the support that was available. It is an endorsement that Craig wholeheartedly supports.
“There’s a real buzz about the place. The universities are vibrant, the city is doing a great job attracting new investment, there’s plenty of support on hand from organisations like Business Birmingham, and the strength of the digital sector means there is a fantastic talent pool to recruit from.”
Less than 12 months on, the success of the investment is already bearing fruit and Codemasters is currently recruiting for another 20 developers in Birmingham. As Craig points out, even if it has to recruit from outside the area, selling the city to potential new recruits has never been easier:
“Birmingham has the best of both worlds. It has the facilities, excitement and culture of a major European city, and yet in 20-30 minutes you can be in the heart of some of the UK’s finest countryside. It’s definitely a winning combination.”
Synapse firing up success in Birmingham
In 2012 Silicon Valley veteran Brian Donnelly swapped California for the West Midlands. And while he occasionally misses the sunshine, he says the business climate in Birmingham has proved perfect for his business.
Donnelly is managing director of Synapse, a fast growing hi-tech business that helps large organisations improve the way they report, present and manage their data using spreadsheets.
“Spreadsheets are a vital management tool for many businesses. But when you have multiple users all using the same spreadsheets, it can get messy very quickly. Our cloud-based system stops that from happening.”
Having previously sold his US-based company Constellar to IBM, Donnelly knows first-hand what it takes to develop a successful hi-tech business in terms of location, infrastructure, support and talent. And he says Birmingham has all these vital elements in abundance.
“Our client base is primarily large organisations with pretty sophisticated data management needs, so Birmingham is ideal. Some of the biggest organisations in Britain are based here. There’s a huge concentration of large companies in the West Midlands, and with its road connections, it’s very easy to go and see them.”
He set up Synapse in January 2012. The SME’s client list already includes a leading UK bank, a major European retailer and a large US conglomerate, all based within a 20-30-mile radius of the office at the Innovation Birmingham Campus.
From its beginnings as a one-man operation, Synapse now employs around 20 people and has exceeded all its growth targets. It also has small sales offices in London and also in Oregon, USA. Given the hi-tech nature of his business, Donnelly says that finding and recruiting the right people is vital. And here too, Birmingham comes up trumps.
“There are five or six top class universities in the region turning out 60,000 graduates a year, including a good number of the software engineers and highly skilled computer scientists that we need. Not only is it easier to recruit them, salaries tend to be significantly cheaper as well.”
Synapse recently received a £250,000 investment from the Government’s Technology Strategy Broad (TSB) to help fund its next stage of growth, including another 5-10 recruits in 2014. It has also secured a grant from Bournville College and plans to raise a further round of investment later this year.
Inward investment programme Business Birmingham, backed by the European Regional Development Fund, has supported Synapse by advising the firm in areas such as property and recruitment – and by raising its profile with potential clients and the media.
“Birmingham City Council and Business Birmingham have been enormously helpful, and there are a heap of support and network organisations here that focus on the hi-tech sector. It’s been great for us. The clients are here. The talent is here, all in quite a concentrated area, and it is very affordable. We wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
Birmingham is best for online retail technology company
Innovative marketing automation company, Owned it, was so impressed with Birmingham’s dynamic digital cluster that it relocated its headquarters to the city from London.
Owned it has developed a suite of customer engagement apps that help retailers increase revenue by turning their web pages into a springboard for tailored offers and incentives for visitors and customers. Now based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus in the city centre, the company currently works with around 1,200 registered retailers from over 45 countries.
Sonu Bubna, finance director and co-founder of Owned it, explains that when they first started developing the business in 2011, it quickly became apparent that London wasn’t the ideal location, not least because of the costs involved.
After hearing about the Oxygen Accelerator programme based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, she decided to visit Birmingham and was amazed by the city’s offering.
“We didn’t know Birmingham, so we were really excited when we realised what it could offer our business. There’s a very dynamic tech cluster here and a great infrastructure on which to build our business. We saw an opportunity to really maximise our resources and take Owned it to the next level.”
She says that Owned it’s new offices are more than a match for anything in London, and at a far more affordable rate. What’s more, the strength of Birmingham’s digital and hi-tech sector, which attracts people from all over the UK, means there is a huge talent pool of suitably skilled and experienced employees right on the doorstep.
“As a young business, we need people with good digital skills who are also prepared to pitch in wherever they are needed. The skills pool is stronger and more focused here than we found elsewhere. While on the technical side, it is significantly easier and more cost effective to recruit software developers.”
After ramping up staff numbers during the development phase of its products, the start-up now runs its main operations from Birmingham, supported by a small sales team in London. It is working on new developments all the time and plans to recruit another 5-10 people for its Birmingham base in the near future, as new products come on stream.
The company has been assisted by Business Birmingham – which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund – since locating in the city.
The inward investment programme has brokered introductions to other local companies and networks, while also providing PR and marketing support.
Bubna has nothing but praise for the support the company has received so far, and is looking forward to the next exciting phase of Owned it’s development.
“Business Birmingham and the city council have been fantastic. They are very proactive in reaching out to start-ups and providing them with the help they need to flourish. I can’t imagine having that support elsewhere. Birmingham is a very exciting place for our business to be.”
Digital apprenticeship provider goes Native in Birmingham
Technology training provider Digital Native chose Birmingham as the place to base its head office, after scouring the UK for the most suitable location.
The company’s founders Martin Stilgoe, Suzanne Higginson and Tony Harper spotted a gap in the market for Information Technology training, and Birmingham beat other locations across the UK to secure the company’s investment.
The SME provides technology apprenticeships for young people in the fields of Software Development, Web Development, IT Support and Business Intelligence (BI complex data analysis that enables better business decision-making).
Digital Native offers the only BI apprenticeships in the UK, with Director of Technology Tony Harper, formerly Chief Technology Officer for Capgemini UK – Business Information Management, bringing his global experience to develop the curriculum.
Director Martin Stilgoe said:
“After looking at different locations across the UK, Birmingham stood out as the ideal location. Most larger-scale IT companies have a presence in the area, and with its excellent connections, Birmingham is never more than a short drive away from any of them. Fast-growing sites for tech firms in the city, like the Custard Factory and the Innovation Birmingham Campus, are only going to add to that mix.”
Birmingham is already one of the UK’s major digital hubs, with over 6,000 tech firms employing some 38,300 people. There are also 40,000 students studying computer science or business in the city.
Digital Native moved into the Custard Factory in Digbeth, the city’s digital and creative quarter, at the end of 2013. Although Stilgoe says the Custard Factory was not on his original shortlist of possible locations, once inward investment programme Business Birmingham had shown him the building, he knew immediately it was the right spot for the business. Business Birmingham is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.
“We met Business Birmingham and they were very supportive of what we are trying to do. When they showed us the Custard Factory, we loved it. It has a hi-tech, contemporary feel, and it’s very professional with a high spec fit-out. We can bring very senior directors from our clients here without hesitation, and at the same time it is warm and welcoming for apprentices,” he said.
Digital Native’s courses, which are financed by the Skills Funding Agency, started in January 2014 with 20 apprentices. The apprentices will complete a Level 3 IT qualification (equivalent to A Levels) and specialist industry led training. Potential employers can benefit from a grant of up to £3,000 per apprentice, plus advice in areas such as insurance and HR.
“By basing ourselves in Digbeth, we’re in the heart of the city’s creative and digital clusters, so we have a wide business network to collaborate with. Digital Native also received plenty of support and advice from local organisations such as Business Birmingham.”
In addition, Birmingham’s central location provides access to a large talent pool from which Digital Native can draw its apprentices, a crucial factor for the company.
Operations Director, Suzanne Higginson, said:
“Finding talented young people is our business critical issue. Basing ourselves in a central location with excellent transport links gives us access to the widest possible reservoir of apprentices.”
Digital Native currently employs five people in Birmingham and is planning to train 400 apprentices over the next five years. Once the Birmingham office is at full strength, the company plans to open up further locations across the UK.
Birmingham chosen as the national hub for local TV revolution
The local TV revolution is set to bring almost 50 new locally-based TV stations to our screens over the next few years – and Birmingham was chosen as the hub that will make it all happen.
Ofcom, the communications regulator, awarded the licence to operate the UK’s new local TV infrastructure to Comux, a not-for-profit SME, in 2013.
To deliver the services, Comux needed to build a brand new purpose-built network operations centre (NOC) to provide broadcast back-office and technical services to the local TV operators. It chose the Innovation Birmingham Campus – a site populated by the local tech and start-up community – as the location for the new facility.
Clare Bramley, the co-founder of Comux, explained:
“Basing the Comux operation at the Innovation Birmingham Campus makes absolute business sense. For one, it is an urban location in the centre of the country with very good accessibility, but crucially it is one of the only places that is capable of providing the infrastructure we need to power a UK wide network of local TV stations.”
Business Birmingham – Greater Birmingham’s inward investment programme, which is backed by the European Regional Development Fund – has also supported Comux by raising its profile with local stakeholders and the media as it settled in the city.
Comux occupies three suites at the campus. One suite is dedicated to broadcast operations, one houses the servers required to power the local TV stations themselves, with the third suite being occupied by the operations team. Around 20 people are employed at the centre.
From the award of the contract by Ofcom, to the launch of the NOC in Birmingham, the whole process took just 18 weeks. In the final five weeks, over 18km of video cable and more than 6,000 metres of network cable were installed, capable of sending 385,000 data packets per second out of Birmingham.
Bramley also cited the premises themselves as a key attraction, offering flexible, high quality space at a competitive rate. While Birmingham’s rapidly growing and dynamic media cluster provided a wide pool of suitably qualified recruits.
“The space here at the Innovation Birmingham Campus is very flexible. It gives us the scope to expand or reconfigure our operations very quickly and very easily, as we have done already. To drive that growth we’ve obviously needed the right people. And Birmingham’s long tradition as a centre of TV production means those skills are here. So it’s been great for us from a recruitment point of view as well.”
There are now 30 local channels across the UK that have won Ofcom licences, with six of them already on air. Another dozen local TV licences could follow in a subsequent phase.
Online marketing specialist ReachLocal is headquartered in California, USA, and has four offices in the UK.
The NASDAQ-listed company has expanded its presence in Birmingham during the last 12 months – after arriving in the city in 2010 with six members of staff, it now employs 18 people and has moved to bigger offices in Fort Dunlop.
Regional Sales Manager Craig McNerlin said:
“ReachLocal has account managers for all of our clients, and it is vital that we can reach them quickly and easily. Birmingham’s central location made it ideal for our sales team, and our office in the city has become a catalyst for the company’s UK growth.
“We can also find the staff we need here. Almost everyone based in the office lives locally, even though we have a national remit.
“The transition from offline to online marketing means that ReachLocal is expanding swiftly, and our Birmingham office is certainly mirroring this trend.”
Visit http://www.reachlocal.co.uk/ to find out more.
Expanding SME Dotted Eyes is the latest digital innovator to enter the city with a move to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
Led by Managing Director Ben Allan, the company specialises in mapping data to provide business solutions.
Dotted Eyes works for more than 1,200 organisations across the UK in the public and private sectors – including some 300 local authorities and 130 health associations. Since locating to the city the company has grown by ten members of staff to 30 people, with plans to employ a further ten in the next 18 months.
Dotted Eyes was based in Bromsgrove for 20 years, but Ben decided to look elsewhere when the company’s office lease needed to be renewed. The combination of competitive office costs, the local talent pool and comprehensive transport links meant that Birmingham was the best location for the company to realise its full potential.
“Our industry is constantly changing – three quarters of our current business didn’t even exist five years ago – so we rely on the skills of our team to drive Dotted Eyes forward. Moving to Birmingham has widened our local talent pool from about 100,000 people to nearly 2 million, because people can easily commute into Birmingham from across the region. The city’s strong train and road links also gives us better access to our clients across the UK.
“I was surprised at the low cost of accommodation in Birmingham, even compared with smaller towns like Bromsgrove. It provides an affordable base for us to approach more potential customers, develop new products and take on new staff.”
Since moving to the city, Ben also noticed a significant shift in the company’s culture.
“Being at the heart of a busy city means we can socialise and spend time together as a team more often. We also moved from a business park to offices that we could really make our own. The change to this working environment has made a huge impact on Dotted Eyes, particularly how we work together, and this has made the team much more positive and productive.”
Business Birmingham is working with Dotted Eyes to support the company’s expansion in the city. For Investment Manager Marek Dobrowolski, it is the latest example of a niche digital company moving to Birmingham for the city’s vibrant talent pool.
“The number of digital, creative and ICT investors that we are working with has doubled in the last 12 months. They want to recruit in Birmingham for highly skilled roles, such as web developers and data specialists, because they can find the right people here. Companies like Dotted Eyes are invaluable to Birmingham’s economy – as well as investing here, they are also helping to grow and diversify the skills of our local workforce.”
Dotted Eyes joins a number of other digital specialists that have recently located in Birmingham – including global fashion brand ASOS, Australian online retailer Tinyme and data consolidation firm Synapse.