Skip to main content

The Best Location To Start A Business In The UK Might Surprise You

If you’re just looking at startup numbers, there’s never been a better time to start a business. In 2016, more than 650,000 new businesses were registered with Companies House, the highest figure ever, demonstrating that Britain’s famous entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.

The majority of new businesses, unsurprisingly, are started in London. The capital offers great opportunities for business growth and expansion, with millions of customers on the doorstep and several open gateways to the international market.

But does this make London the best place to start a business in the country? Not according to new research from Informi, published this week. We studied the latest publicly available information from the 63 largest UK towns and cities, focusing on a variety of factors that can prove important for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to thrive.

These factors include business startup and closure figures. We also awarded points for locations with high superfast broadband supply, low pollution, and low property prices – all of which help to create a favourable environment for startups. 

Having pulled all this data together, we were able to compile our list of best places to start a new business in 2017. Here’s the top five:


5: Brighton 4: Cambridge 3: Derby 2: Dundee 1: Ipswich


Ipswich – the town that takes the crown

Taking top spot from 2016 champions Brighton, Ipswich is the best place to start a new business in 2017. The town’s strong performance was largely due to low CO2 emissions, a low churn rate of businesses over the last three years, and strong levels of digital connectivity.

In a category dominated by seaside locations, Ipswich emitted just 3.71 tonnes of CO2 emissions per capita during 2014, coming behind only Chatham and Luton. Middlesbrough and Swansea were the worst culprits in this area, with emissions of 26.22 and 26.78 tonnes respectively.

Ipswich’s business churn rate – the rate at which new businesses have opened minus the rate at which they have closed over the past three years – was the sixth lowest in the UK, suggesting that businesses are given strong opportunities in the town to be established and sustainable. Only Aberdeen, Exeter, York, Dundee and Plymouth had a lower churn rate than Ipswich between 2012 and 2015.

Worthing came top for having the best ultrafast broadband coverage

Ipswich also appeared sixth on the list for the percentage of properties covered by ultrafast broadband, rising ten places in this category from the previous year. Some 89.82% of properties are covered in the town, only beaten by Worthing, Luton, Cambridge, Brighton, and Plymouth.


How did the capital perform?

When it comes to business startups, London comfortably leads the way. 112.36 businesses were started per 10,000 people in the capital during 2015, well ahead of nearest challengers Northampton (100.45).

London has the highest number of business startups

However well London performs when it comes to startups, it does just as badly for business closure levels. There were 64.2 closures per 10,000 people in 2015, showing that the capital provides the most volatility for businesses, with thousands of success and failure stories. Belfast, in contrast, had just 16.7 closures per 10,000 population in the same period.


Not forgetting house prices…

And finally, of course, London came bottom of our league tables when it came to finding small businesses affordable properties along with places to live for their employees. The mean house price in London has hit £561,436.60. At the other end, in Burnley, the average house only just sets you back six figures at £102,596.86.

London also has the highest mean house prices in the UK

Expensive houses and business property rents can be an extreme setback for small business owners looking to get their company up and running. In an increasingly digital age, many entrepreneurs will be wondering whether they even need to have a potentially expensive property at all.

It is encouraging to see that there are a variety of environments where small businesses can do well, but for every success story there are still far too many failures, where businesses have been unable to survive and thrive.

Darren Nicholls Informi Product Manager

Where else scored well – and badly?

If inventing a new product is your thing, then Cambridge may be the place for you. Undoubtedly fuelled by its status as a leading university city, there were over 340 patent applications made per 100,000 population during 2015 – well ahead of surprise package Coventry in second place.

Sunderland had the worst business startup figures in 2015, with just 30 launched per 10,000 population. Just 0.13% of properties in Aberdeen were covered by ultrafast broadband in 2016, while Doncaster had the highest business churn rate of 13.84% between 2012 and 2015.

The great news for prospective small business owners is that opportunities exist for you throughout the length and breadth of the UK, though it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages your local area might bring. Take the time to research what advantages your area has, what support groups may be around you, and what the local competition is like for your particular chosen industry.


The data used in this study covers statistics from 2012 – 2016 and focuses on the UK’s 63 largest cities and towns, defined as primary urban areas by Centre for Cities.

  • NOMIS, mid-year population estimates
  • The Office of National Statistics demographic survey and Business Structure Database – Business start-ups, business closures, business churn rate
  • PATSTAT; Intellectual Property Office (Patent published by postcode) – Patent applications
  •, percentage of premises covered with ultrafast broadband (>100 Mbps) as at end of 2016 – Digital Connectivity
  • Land Registry/Scottish Neighborhood Statistics – House Prices
  • The Department of Energy and Climate Change, CO2 emissions per capita – Pollution
  • Data collation – Centre for Cities


For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook

Share this content

Leave a Reply

Register with Informi today:

  • Join over 30,000 like-minded business professionals.
  • Create your own personalised account with curated reading lists and checklists.
  • Access exclusive resources including business plans, templates, and tax calculators.
  • Receive the latest business advice and insights from Informi.
  • Join in the discussion through the comments section.