As he returns to commercial consulting, tech start-up expert Jeffrey Peel explains why there’s more to the UK than London, and why he’s helping overseas companies get a start in the UK.

Despite the twin challenges of Covid and Brexit the UK remains a major hub for companies looking to expand into new markets. The legal, financial, and skills infrastructure available to those entering the country has maintained the UK’s position as a leading destination. And of course, many companies are drawn to London as the world’s pre-eminent financial centre.

“For Australian and NZ companies that we sometimes help, they’ve often maxed out their funding,” explains Jeffrey Peel, who for the past few years has led a team at the Department for International Trade focusing on encouraging overseas firms to consider the UK as their next market.

Jeffrey Peel & startups

But while many tech startups from outside the UK are drawn to London as a funding market, a growing number are looking beyond the capital to add the skills and infrastructure in order to help them take the next step.

“To some people, London is the Holy Grail,” Peel says. “But a growing number are looking to other UK cities as places to set up. Certainly, when you look at the tech space and the importance of R&D it shows a different map of the UK: so if you’re working in AI, for instance, you’d be mad not to look at Cambridge and Oxford for talent in that space; if you want to hire a Ph.D. in Computational Physics then you’ve got to be in Cambridge or Bristol.

“And ultimately it’s about people: where can you find that engineer or scientist or developer who will provide the spark for the company’s next stage of development.”

Outside the Oxford-Cambridge knowledge belt, other cities are punching their weight.  “In terms of hardware and semiconductors, Cardiff is increasingly important thanks to several big sensor plants arriving,” Peel says. “And that’s also the case in Bristol, while Belfast is leading the way in cybersecurity – in fact, the Northern Irish city takes in more FDI to its cyber companies than anywhere else in the UK.”

“Then Edinburgh is really good for blockchain, while Newcastle is really taking a lead on IoT while Manchester’s e-commerce scene is enormous and thriving. Typically they might want a shopfront for the sales and marketing function in or near London, but the R&D and really interesting stuff is happening outside the M25.”

Of course, the need to have a properly set up UK base is a must-have which is where Paul Beare comes in. Paul has worked with Jeffrey during his time at the DIT to help startups from Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere to navigate the UK system of HR, legal, banking, and financial regulation.

“It’s certainly true that lots of businesses see the UK as a great place to set up but they do sometimes need help to make sure they’re starting from the right place.

We have helped many businesses just like that and it’s really important that they speak to the right advisers to get off on the right foot – no matter where in the UK they choose to set up.”

Paul Beare Ltd is one of the leading accountancy practices focusing on helping overseas businesses set up in the UK. So, if you’re in need of advice or support, we’re right here for all your needs, and you can contact us for help in a number of areas, from tax and payroll to accounting and banking.