The UK’s thriving digital economy is about much more than Shoreditch, Cambridge and Manchester as like-minded organisations ‘cluster’ together in towns and cities across the country. Every day this week we are training the spotlight on a lesser-known area.

Creative ideas are flowing in Birmingham’s Silicon Canal, just one of the digital networks driving the tech sector in the UK’s second largest city. 

Greater Birmingham’s digital economy includes more than 6,000 firms, more than any other core city in the UK, according to the city’s strategic marketing partnership, employing around 36,000 people.

More than 25 per cent of the UK’s games workforce is based there.

Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham, said: “With an impressive membership list of start-ups and SMEs, together with strong connections throughout the tech and digital sectors in the city, Silicon Canal provides an excellent network of cutting-edge businesses.”

Neil Rami of SIlicon Canal

Neil Rami of Marketing Birmingham

Support from local networks such as Silicon Canal is strong, with 82% of survey respondents ranking it as a key benefit, while events like hackathon Launch48 provide support and mentorship.

“Silicon Canal’s leadership team is extremely active and eager to promote the city’s tech offering outside the region’s borders,” Rami continued.

“As a result of being so well connected, dedicated and informed, their role in supporting innovation extends beyond the obvious role they play in assisting start-ups and scale-ups. 

“Silicon Canal assists its company’s innovation projects; provides relevant contacts, connections and knowledgeable advisors; ensures companies are abreast of the latest movements and advances within technology; and that businesses are benefiting the whole sector by helping them to innovate quickly and cost effectively.”

Birmingham has the fifth-largest digital turnover - £1.8billion – after London, Reading and Bracknell, Bristol and Bath, and Manchester.

With a history of advanced manufacturing, Birmingham is now building emerging specialisms including digital advertising and marketing, plus enterprise software and cloud computing.

Silicon Canal

“The benefit of independent, active and knowledgeable clusters such as Silicon Canal is the trusted and reliable hubs they create,” Rami added.

“Such clusters provide a support system for the innovative endeavours of companies of all sizes, in one of the fastest-moving and ever evolving sectors.”

The city’s affordable property and local talent pool from three universities enable home-grown start-ups to flourish while also attracting major companies, such as ASOS, to the area.

The Innovation Birmingham Campus for the tech and start-up community opened iCentrum, a new £8m development to showcase collaborative technology, in March.