Posted on October 23, 2018 by staff

UK is ‘unicorn’ capital of Europe – report


London has created 36 unicorns while Manchester has produced five

The UK has been unofficially crowned the ‘unicorn’ capital of Europe after new figures revealed that Britain’s leading tech clusters are competing head-to-head with European capitals.

Research prepared for Tech Nation and the government’s Digital Economy Council shows the UK has now created 60 unicorn start-ups – tech companies with a valuation of $1 billion or more – since 1990.

According to figures revealed by venture capital analytics firm Dealroom, the UK has created 35 per cent of all unicorns in Europe and Israel, with London producing 36 and Manchester producing five, putting it on par with Amsterdam.

After the IPOs of Farfetch and Funding Circle, the UK is now home to 15 unicorns.

“The UK is fast becoming a network of digital excellence, with various strengths in different digital domains,” said Tech Nation CEO Gerard Grech.

“Cities like Manchester, Oxford and Cambridge are producing significant companies including The Hut Group, Sophos, Oxford Nanopore and Darktrace. Increasingly these cities are competing with other tech hubs in Asia and the US and can go head-to-head with Europe’s capitals on many measures.”

This latest research has been published ahead of the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport’s first meeting with the Digital Economy Council on 24th October.

Jeremy Wright hailed the UK’s track record in creating fast-growth tech companies as “second to none in Europe”.

“These new statistics show Manchester and Edinburgh are now competing on a global scale and stellar tech firms are growing right across the country, spreading new jobs and investment,” he said.

“Through our Digital and Industrial Strategies we are creating the conditions to start up and grow brilliant tech ideas into world-beating global businesses and pushing the boundaries of science to change people’s lives for the better.”

The figures show that Oxford and Cambridge (‘Oxbridge’) have produced more fast-growing tech companies than both Paris and Berlin.

Cambridge is home to Darktrace artificial intelligence cyber defence giant Darktrace, while Oxford Nanopore was spun out of Professor Hagan Bayley’s University of Oxford lab.

Meanwhile, Manchester has become home to a thriving eCommerce cluster of retail businesses and has produced as many unicorns as Amsterdam.

The North West city is headquarters for quoted tech companies including boohoo and, as well as privately owned The Hut Group. Travel business and publisher Autotrader are also notable tech companies in the city.

Across the Pennines in Leeds, two unicorns have been created in Sky Betting & Gaming, which was sold for £3.4 billion to larger rival The Stars Group in 2018 and Callcredit, which was sold to TransUnion for £1 billion earlier this year.

Edinburgh counts SkyScanner and data consultancy group Wood Mackenzie as unicorns.

Eileen Burbidge, co-founder and partner at Passion Capital, FinTech Envoy to HM Treasury and chair of Tech Nation, said: “Right across the nation, many different communities are seeing startups forming and scaleups growing, providing great jobs and opportunities.

“The UK’s reputation for excellence in computer science and engineering, its world leading universities, its creative industries and the strength of the City of London have all contributed to produce a flourishing tech ecosystem throughout the UK.”