Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol
Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Image: Pixel Memoirs/Shutterstock

Everything you need to know about Bristol’s sci-tech scene

1 Feb 2018

Thought to be one of the most vibrant technology hubs in the UK, Bristol is a top destination for tech talent.

While the triggering of Article 50 was a game-changer for the tech industry last year, a recent report showed that, despite the fallout from Brexit, the UK is still Europe’s dominant destination for tech talent moving around Europe.

But the UK isn’t just one big hub for sci-tech talent. There are a huge number of clusters scattered across the country and Bristol is considered one of the most vibrant tech hubs in the UK.

What sets Bristol apart from many other tech hubs starts with its geographical location. The city acts as a gateway to the south-west and Wales. As a port, it also naturally has a history of trade and export, making it an ideal spot for distribution centres.

It has also been growing an impressive sci-tech scene for the last number of years, with a growing demand for talent in the realm of software development, engineering and testing.

From engineering to robotics

Bristol has developed key clusters in aerospace and advanced engineering. In fact, the Bristol and Bath region is home to nine out of the 12 largest aerospace companies in the UK.

For those interested in the big tech companies of the world, the south-west city doesn’t fall short here, either. Online food delivery giant Just Eat opened a specialist hub in Bristol in 2014 and last year expanded its presence even further.

Additionally, SN Systems – part of Sony Interactive Entertainment – has its headquarters a short walk from Bristol city centre. The city is also home to popular film database IMDb, founded by Col Needham more than 25 years ago.

Delving deeper into technology, Bristol is a dream location for tech talent looking to excel in a career in robotics. The Bristol Robotics Laboratory is now the UK’s leading academic centre for robotics research.

To familiarise yourself with the calibre of robotics talent that is based in Bristol, you need only read about examples such as Silas Adekunle from this year’s Forbes 30 under 30 list. Adekunle is the founder and CEO of Reach Robotics, a company that developed the world’s first augmented reality gaming robots.

Future Space

While tech talent, engineers and those looking to work in robotics will be spoiled with a vibrant tech hub, Bristol’s scientific scene must not be ignored.

For scientists and researchers, Bristol is an ideal location to set up camp, particularly with its recently developed Future Space sci-tech hub.

As part of the University of the West of England, Future Space is a flagship enterprise and innovation facility, which opened in 2016.

Providing a unique destination for science and technology companies, Future Space includes shared and co-working offices, an equipped lab, upgradeable workshops and dedicated offices.

A London alternative

Over the last few years, Bristol has built itself up to be a strong tech alternative to London, and has been attracting some key players in the tech world.

The more tech companies, innovation hubs and vibrant industries that make Bristol their home, the more talent the city will attract.

Speaking to BusinessCloud last year, KPMG’s Kay Drury said Bristol is becoming more recognisable globally. “People are recognising that there’s a really good talent pool down here; it costs a fraction of what it does in London, and it’s a great place to live,” she said.

“I think the profile is getting there and that’s largely down to the efforts of the people in the region, raising that profile collectively.”

Additionally, Bristol is home to non-membership organisation TechSPARK, an information hub for all things tech in the west of England.

On a monthly basis, TechSPARK connects with roughly a third of the region’s tech sector, providing news, profiles and resources as well as arranging meet-ups and events.

Bristol has a strong reputation for sustainability, named the UK’s first ever European Green Capital in 2015. The city is also a testbed for autonomous vehicles and 5G.

‘Oracle launched its six-month Startup Cloud accelerator in Bristol last year’

It’s not just the companies, tech hubs and talent that makes the south-west city shine as a thriving sci-tech ecosystem, though.

The Tech Nation report is considered one of the most comprehensive analyses of the city clusters powering the UK’s digital economy, and the 2017 report highlighted the Bristol and Bath region as a great location for tech talent.

The region came out on top for tech worker productivity and third for a total digital turnover of £8.1bn after London and Reading.

As if that wasn’t enough of an impressive digital footprint, tech giant Oracle launched its six-month Startup Cloud accelerator in Bristol last year.

From budding start-ups, innovative research facilities and exciting tech companies, to a vibrant alternative to London, it’s safe to say that Bristol is here to compete with the major tech players, both in the UK and on a global scale.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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