Property website Zoopla is among 'unicorns' based in the UK Zoopla

Britain has the highest number of tech start-ups with a valuation of $1bn (£637m, €888m) or more in Europe, as London cements its position as the digital capital of the continent.

The UK currently has 17 such tech start-ups, known as "unicorns", while Europe has a total of 40 start-ups, according to new research by investment bank GP Bullhound. In the UK, seven of the unicorns were formed during the last 12 months.

The British start-ups have a cumulative value of more than $40bn, and they mostly comprise of firms in the fintech sector, which is being helped by London's unique position in global finance. A Fintech business uses software to provide financial services.

The start-ups include online white goods retailer AO World, online fashion group Asos, property websites Rightmove and Zoopla, money lender Wonga and online takeaway delivery firm Just Eat.

"The UK has raced ahead as the undisputed home of unicorns in Europe, with London producing the vast majority of Britain's billion-dollar tech companies," said Manish Madhvani, managing partner at GP Bullhound.

"Growth is accelerating because we have created an environment capable of sustaining high levels of investment across a range of tech sectors."

A separate study by Ernst and Young found that 1,000 "international tech investment projects" based themselves in London between 2005 and 2014 – the highest in Europe. In comparison, just 281 firms selected Paris and 162 firms selected Dublin.

Britain has launched Tech City, an industry group backing tech start-ups, in London in 2010. The group functions as Britain's equivalent of Silicon Valley.