Bristol has ranked in the top 5 most innovative tech clusters in the UK, according to a new UK Tech Innovation Index published by The Data City.

The report reveals that the cluster (grouping Bristol, Cardiff and Newport) accounts for 5% of the UK’s tech innovation. The report sees Bristol outranking tech hotspots such as Nottingham and Leeds.

This index is unique in its approach to evaluating innovation. It chooses to focus on innovation communities formed of ‘clusters’, rather than standard pre-determined geographies, and evaluates relationships between neighbouring communities. A consideration for influence, specialisms and prevalent academic institutions has ensured this data reveals previously unseen links between cities, which assesses more than just business activity.

These sectors include: AI and data, clean growth, smart cities and mobility, ageing society, and advanced manufacturing.

Millions of data points which captured sector-specific clusters were classified using machine learning. This index is to be updated monthly to create a true picture of innovation in the UK.

The Data City has published this information as open data, in partnership with the Open Data Institute. It forms a key part of the ODI’s innovation programme, a three-year, £6m programme designed to support data analysis in the UK. Open Data Institute CEO, Jeni Tennison says:

“The index can be used to inform policy makers, investors and businesses about innovation across the UK, showing where there are active tech communities in different sectors, and where there are gaps. It also demonstrates how new sources of data can be brought together to cast a different light on innovation in the UK. By making the methodology and data open, we hope others can build on this work.”

Tom Forth, Co-Founder and Head of Data at The Data City, who led the project, explains the application of this research for regional innovation:

“With this index, we are providing an evidence base for better-informed decisions within the UK government and beyond, and are sharing many of our methods and documenting the datasets we use so that others can benefit from them.

“Our new approach covers more of the UK, and by using many times more data points we have found and measured more clusters of innovation, and more of them away from cities. With millions of rows of data, and thousands more rows being added every week, we no longer classify businesses and events by hand, we use machine-learning techniques instead. We are also explaining what would be possible if more data were available to us in the future, in the hope that it will be.”

“We believe this information will help private investors looking to invest in companies, existing businesses looking to expand, national government departments looking to assign investment and local and regional governments looking to assign funding locally or make a case for inward investment to their regions.”

What does this mean for innovation in Bristol?

This is good news for innovation in Bristol.

The Data City’s method allows the index to highlight the city’s leading role across individual innovative sectors. Bristol ranked in the top ten for both advanced manufacturing, and AI and data. A similar conclusion was drawn in Technation’s 2018 report, noting that the city was number one for productivity in the whole of the UK.

Private investors now have a far clearer view of specialist innovation in the UK. Local governments may also identify successes and gaps in their region’s activity. Perhaps Bristol will see more funding put into AI and data, or conversely into mobility.

This index is very favourable as Bristol invites Channel 4 to make the city its new home. It demonstrates the city’s high level of innovation and digital connectivity.