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Birmingham’s innovation strengths highlighted in a new index produced by Data City

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

The index 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.

Matthew Rhodes, GBSLEP Board Director for Stimulating Innovation, commented:

Birmingham and its surrounding areas remain a UK hotspot for the knowledge economy, with highly-skilled sectors ranging from automotive to digital and low-carbon all thriving here. The region’s strengths in advanced manufacturing and tech are particularly critical in helping businesses to innovate, as they provide many of the tools required to stimulate product development and R&D.

It is critical that the Greater Birmingham and Solihull area continues to grow a vibrant regional ecosystem that supports local innovation – which will create even more opportunities for our businesses and people. While much of this work is already being done by organisations such as our universities, the development of a Local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands will help to identify how we should support our innovators of the future. As part of this, GBSLEP is engaging with its partners and businesses across the West Midlands to help inform and develop a wider regional strategy for four key sectors of strength – life sciences; low carbon; business, professional & financial services; and creative industries.”

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.

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.”