Edinburgh top for innovation but digital connectivity lags - Knight Frank report

Edinburgh is the UK’s top city for innovation outside of London, according to a new report.

By Scott Reid
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 7:20 am

The Scottish capital’s innovation infrastructure was the best of the 39 major UK cities analysed by global property consultancy Knigh Frank.

Its UK Cities report found that Edinburgh was buoyed by the research outputs, spin-out formation and patent generations at its universities, as well as its research institutions and biomedical funding bodies attracting funding estimated at more than £2.2 billion since 2015.

The city also scored highly for its “thriving” start-up community, quality of life and retention of a highly skilled workforce. More than half (53 per cent) of students in Edinburgh intend to stay in the city post-graduation, according to the firm’s research.

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Edinburgh is the UK’s top innovation city outside of London by a considerable margin, according to new research from Knight Frank.

Despite its top billing for innovation, Edinburgh ranked just tenth for its digital and physical connectivity - a measure that takes into consideration fibre availability, capacity and performance, mobile network capabilities and proximity to data centre services. Glasgow fared better, placing sixth – top in Scotland – with Manchester leading the overall list for digital and physical connectivity.

Meanwhile, Glasgow ranks higher than the likes of Manchester, Bristol and Cardiff for innovation, demonstrating strong innovation infrastructure with three universities benchmarked against global standards – the University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University. Scotland’s largest city also ranked highly for its entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Aberdeen was listed ninth in the index of Knight Frank’s markets, placing well for its innovation infrastructure, along with good scores for its quality of life and start-up community.

The index combined 32 variables and more than 1,200 data points across the 39 UK cities to deliver its findings.

Toby Withall, partner at Knight Frank Edinburgh, said: “Edinburgh is well known for its academic institutions, quality of life, and thriving start-up community - the tech sector, in particular, has grown to become one of the city’s most active occupiers.

“However, innovation increasingly relies on the support of digital infrastructure and, if the city is to maintain its position as the top innovation hub outside of London, then its comparative underperformance on this front will need to be addressed.”

Colin MacKenzie, partner at Knight Frank Glasgow, said: “Glasgow’s start-up community is growing and there are a broad range of ambitious new spin-outs emerging from the city’s world-class academic institutions. COP26 showed a lot of what Glasgow has to offer on the global stage and the city has a proud heritage of delivering scientific excellence and bold research.”

Matt Park, partner at Knight Frank Aberdeen, added: “Innovation will be key to supporting Aberdeen’s transition from oil and gas towards a centre for renewable energy technologies. It is highly encouraging to see the city rank among the UK’s hotspots, particularly for the infrastructure that supports innovation.”

Last week, a report by Knight Frank showed that office take-up in Edinburgh was continuing to bounce back from the pandemic.

Nearly 580,000 square feet of city-centre office space was let last year, up by 150 per cent from 2020, according to the firm’s calculations.

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