Bristol: The UK’s less heralded hub of tech innovation

While London is often credited with being the driving force behind much of the UK’s technology boom, other parts of the country are staking their claim to regional “digital hub” status. The city of Bristol deserves recognition in its own right, having developed a hotbed of academic incubators and tech entrepreneurs.

We at Acuity advised Everything Legal and BlueSpec, both from Bristol, and see a growing pool of talented new start-ups in the area. Everything Legal, for example, was founded in 2007 with a clear vision to assist UK consumers in securing legal advice and services. It has a holistic approach to monetise and deliver legal services online. The organisation comprises two inter-dependent business units: Law On The Web and Claims Financial.

Bristol corporate finance is expanding rapidly, driven by a vibrant culture of innovation and business confidence. Bristol has long been a centre for creativity, but in recent years it has also become a home for startups. In the 1980s the city was home to a microelectronics cluster and in the 1990s entrepreneurial mindset met with the creative sector, delivering solid results that have helped build a strong foundation into the new millenium. Today, the city is a hub for media, high-tech and web industries.

A cluster of tech businesses have located in the Temple Quarter, a Local Enterprise Zone. Located there is the Engine Shed, a building that was once the headquarters of the  engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but now home to new start-up incubators such as SETsquared and WebStart Bristol, the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and the government body Invest in Bristol and Bath. At SETsquared Bristol alone some 63 companies have raised £35 million between them in sectors such as software, internet, bio-medical and bio-tech. According to the incubator, only 2% have gone bust over the past few years, suggesting that the process here is not factory-like but more aimed at sustaining ideas from development stage to maturity.

The city is especially active in 3D printing and robotics-based segments. The Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), a joint venture between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, has 14 different research teams working on a range of different areas, from self-repairing systems to robots that can work as assisted living companions. It is the biggest laboratory of its kind in the UK. With the likes of Google taking an increasingly proactive approach to robotics, Bristol could be the driving force behind the UK’s high-tech movement.

Some of Bristol’s most dynamic start-ups include Hubbub, Triggertrap and Blu Wireless Technology.

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