If you believe all that you read in the newspapers about London Tech Week, you could be forgiven for thinking that to be part of the Great British tech renaissance of the last decade (and succeed), you have to be headquartered in London.
Popular opinion and statistics would certainly indicate that to be a successful tech business (or otherwise) in the UK you have to be located in the capital.
However, I would challenge this preconception, as we have managed to build a successful cyber security company that protects millions of identities around the globe from the market town of Lutterworth in Leicestershire (home to Frank Whittle, developer of the jet engine in WW2).
Let's start by looking at education and the part that this plays in the wider picture of business success. We have some fantastic, internationally recognised universities here in Britain, producing some of the world's best software engineers and developers. These institutions are located all around the country and not just in London, Oxford or Cambridge.
Being based outside the capital means businesses are ideally located to benefit from these local graduates: in terms of cyber security there is a ready pool of engineering and computing graduates from Leicester, Nottingham and Warwick for us to tap into.
And similarly with universities such as Exeter, Bristol, Bath (in the South West), Durham, Manchester, York (in the North) and Edinburgh and St Andrew's in Scotland (to mention but a few), other regional businesses have an equally strong pool of talent from which to recruit from.
There are challenges involved in running a business (tech or otherwise) outside of London and one of the biggest will always be attracting and retaining the brightest talent. Potential young employees in particular are often attracted to the bright lights of the capital, and there are always going to be some who choose London – this will never change.
However with strong transport links including regional airports, easy motorway access to all parts of the country and fibre optic broadband and 4G now prevalent, gone are the days where proximity to the capital was everything from a professional or personal perspective. Distance from London is certainly no longer the barrier to running a successful business that maybe it once was.
With the government looking to 'rebalance' the economy and address the disparity between the capital/SE and the rest of the country, the UK Regional Investment Plan is a welcome boost to all regional businesses and should place more emphasis on geographical equality. However, the actual process must be carefully managed if it is to genuinely 'rebalance' the regional disparities in the UK economy.
Devolution from London
While addressing housing and infrastructure shortages will go some way to achieving this goal, the government must acknowledge and respect the fact that small and medium-sized businesses - which aren't all located in the South East - are the backbone of the British economy, and their need for specific, supportive measures around funding.
While the UK's regional businesses will continue to succeed, if they are to truly flourish (as they have every opportunity to do) the government needs to ensure that there is more access to funding where and when it is required – even if this is outside London's so-called 'Silicon Roundabout'.
It must also actively promote new approaches to venture capital and endorse a more vibrant, City-backed funding sector if we are to break down the long established and entrenched opinion of the City as risk averse to the UK's vibrant regional business sectors.
Over the last decade the battle for expertise with the rest of the country versus London has certainly intensified, but as the cost of founding and operating businesses in London continues to rise disproportionately to the rest of the country, regional businesses wise up to the talent pools on their doorsteps and the government looks to be more forthcoming in its support, a business model for 'devolution' from London will no doubt gather pace.
- Richard Parris is the founder and CEO of Intercede, a cyber security company based in Lutterworth in Leicestershire