Towards a digital future

The prospects for Southampton are exciting – and now acknowledged at a national level by media, politicians and business people.

The city is being transformed from one relying on traditional industries to a vibrant tech hub with modern digital businesses thriving alongside the transport, logistics and port-based companies that have long been based along the South Coast.

An example of the change in Southampton is this month’s event on artificial intelligence, at the go-ahead Science Park. Another is the strong focus on tech at the first-ever Business Innovation South Expo, an event also taking place in September and supported by The Business Magazine.

And the decision to launch an inaugural South Coast Tech Awards is also a testament to the change in the Southampton landscape. The awards, managed by The Business Magazine, take place on December 5 at the Hilton at Ageas Bowl – and entries are expected to reflect the new digital economy, of which Southampton is very much part.

Southampton has been named the second strongest tech city in the South East behind Reading.

Following an inaugural study, Creative Regions launched by real-estate specialists CBRE in 2017, a new report this year provided a fresh update of the CBRE top 25 UK destinations beyond London for tech businesses.

By applying the same methodology as the original ranking, various shifts have been identified in the top UK cities’ creative and tech profiles over the past two years. 

Commenting on the report, James Brounger, managing director CBRE Southampton, said: “Southampton is the second strongest South East tech sector destination and also features strongly in the UK overall, in 14th position. 

“The city has much to offer. It is well situated; widely viewed as the regional centre for central southern England. Its proximity to the coast and countryside make it an attractive place to both live and work. There is a critical mass of talent, high concentration of millennials in the local population, and proximity to two major universities which together produce around 6,500 graduates each year and are engaged in world class research.”

Southampton is well positioned to accommodate growth from the creative and tech sector if it can draw upon and build on its strengths and the businesses already in place, said CBRE. One such example of this is the recent announcement by digital bank Starling Bank that its second office will open in Southampton this summer, employing 150 staff.

The new status of Southampton has been acknowledged by an article in the Daily Telegraph: “Why Southampton has what it takes to lead the UK’s tech revolution.”

Ocean Village

As Sandy Hopkins, CEO of Southampton City Council, said: “Southampton is an exciting place to be. We have great ambition and our track record shows that we can deliver on that ambition. 

“Southampton is recognised as a city that is really going places: a city of opportunity. The PwC report places us in the top three cities in England in terms of growth; we’ve been in the top five for many years and we are one of the fastest growing cities.”

An example of the city attracting a modern, millennial-friendly investment is the news that Marriott’s lifestyle brand Moxy Hotels has confirmed the opening date of its second hotel in England outside of London. Scheduled to open in December, Moxy Southampton is located at the West Quay shopping centre and close to the cruise terminal.

Virgin Media’s decision to launch gigabit broadband connections in homes in Southampton, ahead of much of the rest of the UK, is also a boost to the city. Latest technology will be rolled out across Virgin Media’s entire national network over the next two years starting in Southampton where the first trial customers are already connected.