Midlands innovation strengths highlighted in a new index produced by Data City

A new UK Tech Innovation Index is available today which shows that the Midlands has significant strengths across a range of sectors including AI and Data, Clean Growth, Advanced Manufacturing and Ageing Society.

The index, available today, shows the most active innovation communities in the UK by categories, captured in an online map.  It goes beyond standard pre-determined geographies, enabling it to reveal previously unseen vital business and academic links across cities and county boundaries, and demonstrating that innovation communities are often made up of groups of cities or conurbations.

The West Midlands scores very highly in each of the categories. Clusters formed around Birmingham, almost always including Coventry, come in the top 10 in every category, including a very strong Smart Cities and Mobility cluster, and ranking second in Clean Growth and Ageing Society, and fourth in AI and Data.  Stoke appears in the top 10 clusters overall and in Smart Cities and Mobility, both times joined into the North West cluster formed around Manchester.

Nicola Hewitt, Commercial Director at the West Midlands Growth Company, which specialises in attracting inward investment into the region, commented:

“Innovation is at the heart of businesses across the West Midlands, underpinned by the strength of our local universities and the close links they have developed with industry leaders. As a result, global investors are locating here to take advantage of the region’s ambition, creativity and sheer brainpower.

“A number of sectors reliant on globally-competitive knowledge and expertise – such as automotive, life sciences and low carbon – are key targets for inward investment and continue to perform strongly in the West Midlands. Many international firms also have significant R&D hubs here, including Mondelez, Changan, The Binding Site, Geely and Jaguar Land Rover. With the tech and digital industry underpinning innovation across other sectors, its growth across the West Midlands – from serious gaming in Coventry to cyber security in Birmingham – is helping to stimulate greater knowledge and investment right across the region.”

The East Midlands also scores highly, with a Leicester/Nottingham/Derby cluster ranking 3rd for Clean Growth, Ageing Society and Advanced Manufacturing and 5th for AI and Data, and 7th for Smart Cities and Mobility. 

The most notable clusters in the Midlands are:

  • Birmingham and Coventry – Smart Cities and Mobility (2), Clean Growth (2), Ageing Society (2), AI and Data (4)
  • Leicester, Nottingham and Derby – Clean Growth (3), Ageing Society (3), Advanced Manufacturing (3), AI and Data (5)

The top 10 overall clusters across all sectors are shown below, including the percentage of activity in the UK as a whole

Top 10

Rank Cluster Region(s) Percentage
1 London, Luton Greater London, East 21.5%
2 Birmingham, Coventry West Midlands 7.3%
3 Manchester, Stoke, Burnley North West, West Midlands 6.4%
4 Reading, Aldershot, Slough South East 5.0%
5 Bristol, Cardiff, Newport South West, Wales 5.0%
6 Oxford, Northampton, Milton Keynes South East 4.7%
7 Leicester, Nottingham East Midlands 4.7%
8 Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Barnsley, Huddersfield, Wakefield Yorkshire and the Humber 4.7%
9 Romford, Dartford Greater London, South East 4.0%
10 Edinburgh, Dundee Scotland 3.9%

This new index has also been developed using not just business activity, but the influence, specialisms and location of universities and other academic institutions, and the concentration of events and networking opportunities in an area.

It uses machine learning to classify millions of data points that capture sector-specific functional clusters, showing the true picture of innovation in the UK today.  It will be updated every month as new data is collected. The results of the analysis are published as open data for others to reuse, providing the most open and useful record yet of innovation communities.

The index is published by Data City (thedatacity.com), with support from the Open Data Institute (ODI). The project is part of the ODI’s innovation programme, a three-year, £6m programme to support and build upon the UK’s strengths in data and data analytics, funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

The open data from the first UK Tech Innovation Index, published in July 2017, was used in an independent review on how the Artificial Intelligence industry can be grown in the UK. The UK Tech Innovation Index 2.0 builds and improves upon its predecessor, using new methods for data collection and clustering, to gain a clearer and more accurate picture of where the UK innovation landscape is flourishing. 

The first index ranked 36 UK cities by their innovation performance and potential in niches of technology using data about businesses, events and scientific publication records.

This second index uses more data sources and machine learning to produce more accurate results, and focuses on five sectors that mirror the innovation priorities of UK government and categories in the Industrial Strategy – AI and Data, Clean Growth, Smart Cities and Mobility, Ageing Society and Advanced Manufacturing.

The data shows different geographical clusters for each of the sectors, and the distribution of clusters, including many of the top 10 for each category, covers the majority of the population of the UK.

Tom Forth, Co-founder and Head of Data at The Data City, who led the project, explains how it is different from other pieces of innovation research.  He says,

“With this index, we are providing an evidence base for better-informed decisions within the UK government and beyond, and are sharing many of our methods and documenting the datasets we use so that others can benefit from them. 

“Our new approach covers more of the UK, and by using many times more data points we have found and measured more clusters of innovation, and more of them away from cities. With millions of rows of data, and thousands more rows being added every week, we no longer classify businesses and events by hand, we use machine-learning techniques instead. We are also explaining what would be possible if more data were available to us in the future, in the hope that it will be.

“We believe this information will help private investors looking to invest in companies, existing businesses looking to expand, national government departments looking to assign investment and local and regional governments looking to assign funding locally or make a case for inward investment to their regions.”

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute, said:

“This new index gives a bird’s eye view of innovation networks across the UK in 2018, providing not only an interactive online tool but regularly updated open datasets that others can use and explore.

“The index can be used to inform policy makers, investors and businesses about innovation across the UK, showing where there are active tech communities in different sectors, and where there are gaps. It also demonstrates how new sources of data can be brought together to cast a different light on innovation in the UK. By making the methodology and data open, we hope others can build on this work.”

 

Contact media team