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Top Cities for Business: Birmingham

As the second most populous city in the United Kingdom, Birmingham is a major economic powerhouse and centre for industry. Once known for being the manufacturing capital of the world, Birmingham is now a vibrant and prosperous city that attracts business owners and investors from the UK and beyond. Today, this West Midlands city is firmly committed to supporting economic growth and to promoting ongoing business development. In this article we look at the main facts and figures that demonstrate that Birmingham is one of the top destinations for businesses and startups.

Birmingham’s economy: an overview

According to a report published by Global Metro Monitor in 2014, Birmingham is among the world’s top cities with the highest GDP per capita levels, with Birmingham’s wider metropolitan economy boasting the the second largest GDP output in the UK, estimated at £68 billion. Birmingham has implemented a successful economic policy that has proven effective in terms of fostering growth and innovation, and this is mainly evident in its designated enterprise zones, which are expected to create 50,000 jobs and inject £1.5 billion into the local economy.

But Birmingham also has an outstanding reputation for fostering economic growth in the international arena. In 2012, the Globalization and World Cities Research Network listed this UK city as a Beta World City, along with important metropolitan economies like Geneva, Abu Dhabi, and Stuttgart. Nearly 30,000 companies are based in the city of Birmingham, including 900 international firms such as Deloitte, Kraft, Jaguar, JCB, and Land Rover.

With all this in mind, it is hardly surprising that Birmingham has been voted as one of the most dynamic metropolis in Europe and been listed as having one of the best business environments in the continent.

Key industries in Birmingham

Birmingham’s industrial structure relies heavily on business services and the knowledge economy. Professional services and finance make up for 23.2 per cent of the city’s total employment, and the city employs the highest number of banking and finance professionals outside London. Advanced manufacturing contributes 14 per cent to the region’s GDP, whereas the tourism sector generates annual revenues of over £5 billion, attracting over 33 million visitors annually. Other important industry sectors include construction, life sciences, transportation, research and development, and creative and digital media.

Startups in Birmingham

In recent years, Birmingham has stood out thanks to its ever-growing levels of entrepreneurial drive. Several factors contributed to these high levels of activity, including low business costs (which can be up to 55 per cent lower than in London) and the development of modern business centres and infrastructure. For example, the Birmingham Innovation Campus is home to nearly 40,000 square feet of dedicated space that suits the needs of local startups. Other infrastructure developments that have been created to promote startup activity in Birmingham include the Longbridge ITEC Park, the Tyseley Environmental Enterprise District, and the Food Hub.

The investment put into these initiatives has certainly paid off. Currently, Birmingham has the UK’s second highest number of annual startups, with more than 18,000 new businesses registered in the city in 2014.

Support for businesses and startups: Government Schemes

Birmingham’s City Council has shown that it is committed to supporting entrepreneurship in the city. There are a number of government-backed schemes, initiatives, and funds available to anyone looking to expand an existing business or to set up a new venture in this West Midlands city.

For example, startups looking for financial support can benefit from the Start Up Loans Programme, which offers unsecured loans of a maximum value of £10,000 along with mentorship services. These loans are open to all Birmingham startups, regardless of which industry sector they operate in. Local startups can also express their interest in the Business Development Programme and request to be put in a waiting list to access this grant programme that has already helped 200 Birmingham companies get established. Industry-specific schemes include Finance Birmingham, which has made available equity funds of up to £500,000 to companies in the creative and high-tech sectors; and the e4f Incubator programme, which offers free office space for up to 6 months, mentorship services, access to test labs, and bootcamps for tech companies.

Young entrepreneurs aged 18 to 30 can benefit from the support and training offered by the Princes Trust, which has made available loans of up to £4,000 to promising entrepreneurs. At the other end of the spectrum, there is the Senior Enterprise Programme, which promotes business development to those aged 50 and over.

There is no doubt that diversity and innovation are at the heart of the business scene in Birmingham, a city that has much to offer to new and existing businesses in all industry sectors.





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