SOUTHAMPTON has sealed its place as the “economic powerhouse of England’s south coast”, a report has said.

The city made it to number 15 in a list of the 21 best British towns and cities for business.

Analysis by Management Today rated major urban centres outside London according to their appeal as “places to run and grow talent-hungry, knowledge-based companies”.

The report said: “Over the past decade Southampton has risen steadily through the league tables for growth, confirming itself as the economic powerhouse of England’s South coast. Network Eagle Lab, an innovative co-working concept, provides business start-up and scale-up space for entrepreneurs and students of two world-class universities.

“As the city undergoes an ambitious scheme of regeneration (£3billion investment since 2012), the council’s vision is that every aspect of Southampton will be connected and accessible, both the digital infrastructure and the physical environment, showcasing a maritime port that is also a clean, green, tech-focused smart city.”

It noted that Southampton’s gross value added (GVA) – the measure of the goods and services it produces – rose 2.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2018. Employment was up 1.9 per cent.

The judges considered the UK’s 643 biggest towns and cities, assessing them on metrics including productivity, the depth of the talent pool, the strength of innovation, the scale of the private sector ecosystem and the rate of growth.

The results were weighted to produce a shortlist of 21, which was then ranked by a panel of judges, referring to the data and submission from the cities themselves.

Manchester won the top spot, narrowly beating Bristol. England’s second city, Birmingham, trailed in ninth place.

Elsewhere on the south coast, Brighton made number 12 on the list and Bournemouth number 17.

Belfast, Sheffield, Oxford and Peterborough all failed to make the shortlist.

Peter Taylor, managing partner at Southampton law firm Paris Smith, said: "It is encouraging to see that Southampton is recognised as a business friendly city but there is more to do if we are to climb the league table, as we must strive to do.

"The city has a rich heritage, a great location, and a dynamic mix of businesses spanning a range of sectors, including many exciting businesses using new technology which will have far reaching benefits for years to come. Added to this, there is a strong desire between key stakeholders in the public, private and voluntary sectors to collaborate to support the city's  vision in order to ensure that Southampton is a place in which all who live and work here feel both a sense of community and pride.

"It is important to continue to work together to create more opportunities for future generations in Southampton to thrive."

Adam Gale, editor of Management Today, said: “London rightly has a world-class reputation, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the country should live in its shadow. There are great business hubs across the UK that deserve recognition. There was a lively discussion over the winner in particular, but Manchester deserves the top spot. What set it apart was the concerted effort of its employers and local authorities to make Manchester as successful in the 21st century as it was in the 19th.”

Jim Hubbard, head of regional policy for the CBI and one of the judges, said: “Despite the strength of London, it would be wrong to assume there aren’t exciting business opportunities available outside the capital.”

Southampton City Council invested £1.5million in turning storage space at the Marlands Shopping Centre into co-working space, choosing Barclays to run it as the Network Eagle Lab. It will support creative, digital and knowledge-based start-ups and scale-ups.