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Leading the Way: A Sector Spotlight on Leeds’ Digital Industries

Home to 3,500 digital and technology companies, with a digital GVA of £688 million and a growth potential of 92%, Leeds is one of the most innovative digital hubs not only in the UK, but across the globe.

Leeds’ digital sector is one of the most thriving industries within the UK. And the industry leading work in this sector is helping to cement the city’s status as a major UK technology destination. In just a couple of years Leeds has moved from tenth to sixth in the CBRE Tech City rankings. As Leeds’ reputation continues to grow, more and more diverse conference businesses are flocking to the area, and the city’s ambitions are rapidly increasing.

So, why does Leeds stand out in the tech arena?

A large volume of digital companies make Leeds their home
Leeds’ digital sector now contributes £1.3 billion to the city’s economy and £6.5 billion to the wider region. Now home to 3,500 technology companies, including two tech unicorns, start-up businesses which have a valuation of over £1 billion, and a variety of digital hubs for pillar organisations, there’s plenty to celebrate.

Major employers in the tech and creative industries have made Leeds their home – with employers such as Sky Betting and Gaming having 1,500 people positioned in IT and technology roles here. A number of digital hubs such as the Test Space Hub, Digital Hub, Leeds Innovation Centre, Creative Industries Hub and Sky Technology Hub continue to develop from Leeds locations and the city is also home to Screen Yorkshire, not to mention Channel 4 recently naming Leeds as its new headquarters, with a further several hundred new creative industry jobs currently being created in the city.

Leeds hosts stellar tech events
Now that Leeds is home to a cluster of innovating digital, creative and technology companies, it has opened a door to a multitude of exciting opportunities. One of the most exciting annual events in the calendar was home grown in Leeds, as a result of the experience and expertise located here. Each year now, the city hosts the annual Leeds Digital Festival – which is one of the largest digital events across the UK, and growing year on year. In 2019, the event hosted over 200 events across 100 venues in two weeks, and during this time period the city saw more tech events hosted there than were held in San Francisco. The Festival is an extremely unique experience, which really demonstrates how Leeds is leading the way in discussion and innovation in the tech industry, with the event at the envy of other cities.

Leeds continues to be at the forefront of digital innovation
Did you know? The first moving picture was created right here in Leeds by Louis Le Prince in 1888, kickstarting an innovation which truly changed the face of entertainment. Leeds Television Studios were also the first to try breakfast television as we now know it, and were the first of the stations to roll for 24 hours of the day. Not only has Leeds made its mark on film and television, but on gaming too, when Rockstar Games created the worldwide hit Grand Theft Auto from their base here in the city, in the nineties.

Now, teams based here continue to develop digital innovation across all areas. Key innovations such as Data Mill North, the Open Data Institute and Leeds Institute for Data Analytics are now working to harness the power of big data, while IXleeds is the UK’s only fully independent internet exchange outside of London. .

Leeds attracts and grows the digital talent pool
The tech industry is facing a global skills shortage, but Leeds has a secret weapon – having a robust talent stream that offers a constant flow of new students to fill out new positions in the area. Leeds City Region produces 38,900 graduates every year, and many of them stick around to live and work here. Even better, the academic institutions based here pride themselves on working hand-in-hand with local businesses to make sure their graduates are industry-ready, so when they land their first job, they’ll be able to do so and hit the ground running. And with events like the Leeds Digital Job Fair bringing more people into the industry and the city, Leeds as a city is taking real action to narrow the skills gap.

Another way that Leeds continues to work to address this skills gap is through initiatives designed to get more women into the technology sector. Home to organisation She Does Digital, which works with local educational institutions to educate teachers and pupils about the roles available in digital, the demand for these roles and the skills required to get them, alongside other specific courses like the Ahead Partnership and the WISE Campaign, there’s a true collaborative of people in Leeds promoting STEM subjects to women, and making tech more accessible for everyone.

So what’s next? The ambition for Leeds now is to build on what has already been created, and use our strong roots in healthcare and financial services to become a world leader in MedTech and FinTech innovations.