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Birmingham aims to steal capital's tech firms as London Tech Week launches

Pro-Birmingham campaigners stick posters around Tech City

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Birmingham is aiming to convince UK technology companies that they don't have to base themselves in London, in a bid to attract more investment to UK's second largest city. 

The assault, which comes on the capital as the first ever London Tech Week was launched by London mayor Boris Johnson this morning, involves pro-Birmingham digital advertising being deployed at Shoreditch High Street Station and Old Street Station over the next two months. There will also be roadside advertising in Shoreditch and Billingsgate. 

Neil Rami, CEO at the city's promotional organisation, Marketing Birmingham, said: “There’s no reason why Tech City should suck in all the attention and investment from government. If Britain wants to compete in the global tech economy, we must unleash the power of regional cities like Birmingham.”

Last October, more than half (61 percent) of London tech firms in a YouGov poll said the UK would benefit from having bigger, stronger tech hubs outside of London. 

But London's tech scene grabbed the headlines at the end of 2012 when prime minister David Cameron pledged to spend £50 million regenerating Old Street Roundabout. However, the Treasury is refusing to part with the money until it is convinced with City Hall's planning proposals

The government set up the Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) in 2010 to champion the technology scene springing up in and around East London. However, in March 2014, the TCIO was rebranded to Tech City UK to reflect how the organisation wanted to start operating at a more national level. 

Now Tech City UK is aiming to join London up with 13 other tech clusters around the UK, including Birmingham, through a scheme called the Cluster Alliance, but the success of this is scheme is still to be determined. 

Rami added: "[Birmingham] has a huge, established and exciting digital community and a wealth of talented, young coders and entrepreneurs. It’s a short journey from London on the train, and on cost it wins hands down."

One area within Greater Birmingham rumoured to be particularly cheap and popular with tech companies is former industrial centre, Digbeth, where commercial property prices are said to be at a third of the cost of London property.

Business Birmingham, the city’s official inward investment programme, claims there are over 40,000 tech workers employed by 6,000 technology companies, including Virgin Media and Asos, in the Greater Birmingham area. However, it has plans to create another 10,000 tech jobs in Birmingham by 2020. 

In order attract tech firms to the city, Business Birmingham has put together investment support packages specifically targeting digital enterprises that want to move away from London. For example, the City Centre Enterprise Zone aims to support SMEs by offering them business rates relief, access to high speed broadband, and simplified planning.

On 2 July, London tech firms are invited to an event that will aim to showcase Birmingham's digital and tech credentials, with guest speakers from Google, ASOS and the BBC. 


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