SOUTHAMPTON has been named one of the top places in Britain for its potential to support those wanting to start and grow a business.

A report by a former Bank of England economist has rated the UK’s towns and cities by their “entrepreneurial potential”.

The research, for digital firm Atos, estimates that the UK economy would benefit by £34billion a year by 2030 if local economies were to realise their full entrepreneurial potential over the next decade.

Southampton came seventh overall, behind Reading, Brighton and Hove, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Oxford and Northampton in the Great British Enterprise Opportunity report, by Steve Hughes.

It was rated among the top places in the UK for five out of six factors: the qualifications held by the local labour force, businesses stock per head of population, population diversity, the number of new business start-ups and the rate of business survival.

It was not among the top performers for the sixth factor, self-employment.

Adrian Gregory, group senior executive vice-president with Atos, said: “We should be proud that the UK is a dynamic entrepreneurial nation, but we can always do more to help the whole country fulfil its entrepreneurial potential.

“Embracing digital technology and helping businesses use it more effectively is key. If we can do that, then Great Britain could benefit from a £34bn boost to the economy, as well as helping the whole country fulfil its entrepreneurial potential.”

The report found that digital technology was critical to unleashing the potential of start-ups and small businesses, because even non-tech start-ups need to embrace digital to compete.

It also said entrepreneurial outcomes could vary significantly within the same town or city’s local economy.

The report highlighted three policies which it said could help the adoption of digital technology:

  • Focusing business support on improving digital capability. Local Enterprise Partnerships could help start-ups maintain and grow their web presence, make better use of cloud computing and digitise back office functions such as payroll.
  • Creating “digital enterprise zones” which could be test beds for the early adoption of future digital technology – such as 5G mobile and full fibre broadband.
  • Implementing enterprise accounts – a digital platform which would provide locally-tailored advice on starting and growing a business.

TechUK chief executive Julian David, said: “The UK has a bright digital future. In an age when technology powers everything, we can use the power of technology to shape a better society, economy and planet. This report provides greater evidence as to why we must speed up the process of digitisation.

“Technology will be at the heart of how the UK tackles many of the most pressing challenges facing the country at this current time. This report rightly highlights how embedding digital into the UK’s entrepreneurial culture will supercharge our SMEs to tackle these challenges and further unleash the potential of the UK’s digital economy.”