My Take On: Leeds will overtake London as the digital capital of the UK

Josh Peachey's picture

With SearchLeeds taking place next month, the excitement around the sector is growing.

Jamie Miles, Marketing Manager for Edit Agency, claims that Leeds is on the cusp of overtaking London as the digital capital of the UK. 

In Prolific North's Top 50 Digital Agencies list for 2019, a total of 12 agencies are Leeds-based. Six of those were in the top 10. 

 

To be honest, this article could start and finish with one simple fact – pints are £1.70 cheaper.

Although that is (partially) a joke, London is at risk of losing its place as the digital queen due to pricing, for both personal expenses and the costs of running a business. With a 29% digital increase, and being worth nearly £65 billion to the economy, the rapidly-flourishing digital industry could lead Leeds to take the crown. 

But that’s not the only reason why...

New Kids on the block 

In recent years Sky Bet, NHS Digital have relocated to Leeds, and Channel 4 moving into the Majestic Building adds another big hitter into the mix. On top of that the new that HMRC as using Leeds as a hub to digitalise their tax services which will add another 6,000 digital jobs to the already growing sector.  

The Northern Powerhouse shift, i.e. the effort to decentralise industries away from London to balance the economy is underway and it’s not just companies that are seeing Leeds’ potential, but also the Government.

The Digital Scene

One thing that sets apart Leeds is how collaborative the digital marketing scene is, with initiatives such as She does digital and AllinLeeds showing the true cooperative spirit of the city.  

Companies who should be competitors working together for the greater good, sharing their knowledge at events to help educate the wider Leeds digital industry, including Leeds Digital Festival, the largest digital festival in the North. 

A great example of this is SearchLeeds. After growing for four years, it’s become the biggest SEO conference in the North, and is organised by Bath, London and Leeds-based agency, Edit.

The event showcases the talent of within the Search industry. Speakers from Leeds based agencies such as Search Laboratory, Stickyeyes and Journey Further join Edit on stage, for this one-day event. Speakers are a mix of brand and agency side, with previous speakers from Google, Microsoft, and brands such as Just Giving, The Telegraph and Virgin Trains.

The talks have an emphasis on offering actionable advice and key takeaways for attendees to put to use in their day to day roles - no sales pitches allowed.

It’s a hub spot (is that a trademark? Please don’t sue) 

The launch of AQL’s datacentre in 2017 was a key landmark for turning Leeds into the Northern powerhouse that it is today. It was designed to support the growing need for high-security processing and big data storage for sensitive information such as health informatics and education institutions.

Since their flagship client of the University of Leeds, a further four Northern universities are now using the centre as well as others elsewhere. The developing infrastructure allows institutions in Leeds to benefit from faster, more reliable connections.

Companies will also contribute to the city’s renewable energy commitment as the AQL centre was built as one of the first green data centres in the UK. 

In with the new, and the old.

Six out of the top ten digital agencies in the whole of the North of England are based in Leeds, and that’s surely no coincidence. If 60% of the agencies Prolific North name as the best are in one city, then that’s proof enough that Leeds must be onto something.

Leeds’ entrepreneurial culture has also meant that it’s a hub for start-ups, with the Start-up Cities Index listing Leeds as the sixth best city in the UK to start a business in.

In conclusion, London is great – but Leeds is better. £1.70 cheaper better.