Leeds’ burgeoning tech sector is on track for a record year as its tech startups and scaleups have raised £288 million already in 2022, an increase of 88% on 2021’s figures (£153 million) according to data from Dealroom analysed by the UK’s Digital Economy Council. The new data, released to coincide with Leeds Digital Festival, shows that investment has increased five times the amount raised in 2020, when tech companies raised £42 million.
The top five fastest-growing startups (by employee numbers) in Leeds
While Leeds has acquired a reputation as home to an increasing number of tech companies in recent years - including Sky Betting & Gaming, Pharmacy2u, Communisis, GoIndustry DoveBird and Zest Eco - startups have also been growing rapidly, in part to the strong investment flow. The startups and scaleups that have seen the most growth in employee numbers are:
- Switchmobility - all-electric zero carbon buses and vans
- Event Genius - ticketing and event management platform
- XR Games - games development studio
- Taskbox - productivity software
- The Data City - open data and AI platform
Tech hiring on the rise
There are now over 49,000 people working in tech startups and scaleups across Leeds, rising to around 82,000 across Yorkshire and the Humber, along with thousands of others working at larger corporate tech firms. Some of the top companies for tech and digital jobs in Yorkshire include PA Consulting Group, airline Jet2, supermarket giant Asda, machine intelligence company Appen and management consultancy Accenture, according to smarter job search engine Adzuna.
Yorkshire tech hiring has increased 49% since July last year, rising to 64% in Leeds. Tech hiring accounted for a fifth of all available roles in Leeds in July, with over 2,500 jobs available compared to nearly 1,400 for accounting and finance and just over 1,300 for engineering. The most in-demand roles include software developers and engineers, as well as more specialist roles such as devops engineers and IT systems architects.
The growth of the tech sector is helped by the fact that Leeds retains over 30 per cent of its students on graduation, making it one of the top five cities for retention in the UK. Organisations such as Yorkshire Graduates are on hand to help former students to find jobs at local and regional employers across the region. Earlier this year, the Depart for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched a new Local Digital Skills Partnership in Hull to make it easier for businesses and residents to identify gaps in their skills and access training on a range of topics from software development and data management to digital marketing.
The close-knit tech community is also a welcoming place - there are over 70 regular creative, digital and tech meet-ups in the city alone and an annual Digital Festival - a two-week celebration of the city and the region’s tech sector, with events taking place virtually and in person in September covering everything from AI, data, cyber security and networking.
Sustainable tech and healthtech leading the way
One tech sector that has been attracting a lot of interest is sustainability. The majority of the start up funds raised during 2022 were invested in RAW Charging, a leading supplier of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The company, which was founded in 2018, raised £250 million in growth funding to expand its rollout of charging points to meet growing consumer demand. Nor is it the only EV-focused company in the city: Zest Eco is an all-in-one provider of EV charging installation, offering services from planning and site surveys to maintenance and support to simplify the transition towards electric vehicles.
RAW Charging and Zest Eco are part of a growing number of sustainability-focused companies based in Leeds. Others include fintech Tred, which allows people to track, reduce and offset their carbon footprint when they spend, and carbon removal startup C-Capture, which offers a safe, low-cost way to remove separate Co2 from emissions to help tackle climate change.
It’s not just sustainability where Leeds tech companies excel. There is a growing health tech cluster in the city, with over 60 health tech startups based here undoubtedly attracted by NHS Digital, which has been located in the city since 2018. These new health companies are tackling areas such as drug development for auto-immune diseases (4D Pharma PLC), preventative health tech (Hero) and animal health (VET-AI).
Minister for Tech and Digital Economy, Damian Collins, said: “The sheer ingenuity and ambition behind Leeds’ tech sector is a force to behold. The city is a hotbed for startups and professionals driving new innovations to help us have healthier and more sustainable lives.
“These figures show people's talent directly translates into new jobs and investment and I’m determined to ensure this growth and success in the city continues.”
Stuart Clarke, co-founder and director at Leeds Digital Festival, said: “We’ve been banging the drum for years that Leeds is an incredible place to set up and grow a tech business and it feels like all the hard work is paying off. We’ve built an amazing, supportive tech community in the city which is on hand to help new and established entrepreneurs as they scale their businesses and this is reflected in the brilliant number of startups, scaleups and corporates that call the city home. I’m looking forward to celebrating these achievements at Leeds Digital Festival and putting in place plans for how we can grow together in the future.”
Will Smith, co-founder of Tred, said: “Leeds was a natural choice to build the UK’s leading green neo bank, thanks to its pool of both tech and finance talent. There’s nowhere better to start a fintech right now. Being in Leeds and operating a hybrid working model gives us access to talent from across the UK, whilst being able to tap into the strong local tech community. Leeds is also a leader in sustainability research, thanks to the University of Leeds and the Priestley International Centre for Climate. Plus, nothing beats a Yorkshire brew and the Dales!”
Paul Lewis, chief customer officer at Adzuna, said: “Leeds is one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the UK thanks to its combination of growing startups and established corporations. It’s great to see the excitement and investment in the city translating into dynamic jobs. This positive growth is also being seen across the region, with tech hiring already up 49% across Yorkshire and Humber in 2022 compared to last year, demonstrating the wider impact of the UK’s tech industry.”