Wednesday 26 July 2017 2:42 pmInvest Edinburgh

Edinburgh's entrepreneurial ecosystem encouraging start-up activity

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The secret of a great recipe lies in having the best local ingredients to work with. The same lesson applies when building an entrepreneurial ecosystem – to be truly successful, cities must evolve their own unique recipe based on the best local ingredients.

A talented workforce, public sector and academic support, a culture of innovation, access to finance, co-location space, entrepreneurial success stories and quality of life are all recognised as the fundamental ingredients required for encouraging start-up activity in any city. Yet, as we all know, closely copying a recipe is no guarantee of success.

The secret is combining those ingredients at the right time, in precisely the right quantities to create a balance, depth and complexity that capitalises on regional strengths. It requires time and original thinking – but given both, the results can be truly transformational.

Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce:

There is something about the fabric of the city that helps to foster creativity and encourages people to challenge the norm. We have one of the highest educated workforces in the UK; a thriving student population; we’re an international city and home to the world’s largest arts festival – no wonder entrepreneurs feel inspired by Edinburgh.

When Edinburgh was named British Entrepreneurial City of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, in November 2016, the secret was out of the bag…Scotland’s capital has evolved an exciting, effective entrepreneurial ecosystem that is proving too tempting to resist.

Increasingly connected

When it comes to networking and access to support networks, the city’s relatively small size makes it the perfect microcosm for entrepreneurs. The city also has access to an unrivalled talent pool, boasting the UK’s most qualified workforce with 55% of the working age population educated to degree level or above.

“Collaboration helps to single Edinburgh out as a special place for start-ups,” says Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. “The business community is increasingly connected, especially for start-ups. Support from Scottish Enterprise and the Council is complemented by incubator spaces such as Entrepreneurial Spark, Creative Exchange and our dedicated tech accelerator, CodeBase – the UK’s largest technology incubator.”

The Chamber is one of many organisations across the city providing mentoring and networking support, encouraging start-up businesses to internationalise where possible.


With an emerging tech and FinTech hub of global importance, Edinburgh’s supportive start-up community fosters a real sense of camaraderie. In May 2017 a new FinTech incubator opened its doors to entrepreneurs. Billed as a centre of excellence for Scotland’s burgeoning FinTech sector, entrepreneurs here benefit from Entrepreneurial Spark’s hugely successful development programme, Royal Bank of Scotland’s technology expertise and networks, as well as expertise from partners KPMG and Dell EMC.

The city hosts a staggering number of events, which give budding entrepreneurs the chance to hone their networking skills, make connections, support one another and solve problems. It’s one of the reasons why Edinburgh is also at the forefront of Scotland’s social revolution, as a new breed of social entrepreneur reflect the desire for a more inclusive way of doing business, delivering both financial and social value. Edinburgh is home to 13% of all of Scotland’s social enterprises.

Data driven innovation

Looking to the future, the recently announced £1.1bn regional Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Regional Deal places Edinburgh’s academic institutions at the heart of feeding the city’s appetite for new entrepreneurial talent.

A recent Science and Innovation Audit, commissioned by the UK Government, recommended that with the right funding, the Edinburgh City region could become the global destination of choice for organisations that power services through the application of data science.

With the University of Edinburgh at its centre, the City Deal’s data driven innovation (DDI) programme will give local businesses and residents new opportunities to capitalise on the data revolution. Over 10 years, the University and its partners plan to train 100,000 people in the application of data science, raising awareness of its implications and supporting both established and start-up businesses in capturing the future opportunities that data science will bring to the regional economy.

Shaping the debate

On 1 November, Edinburgh will welcome more than 1,000 entrepreneurs to the 2017 We Are The Future Start-up Summit. Now in its sixth year, the concept inspired by vibrant start-up events like Berlin’s Tech Open Air, has celebrated entrepreneurship through major events across Europe, US, Middle East and Asia.

Edinburgh’s one-day summit, supported by Barclays and angel capital association LINC Scotland, will explore the ever-changing landscape of business, as well as lessons in surviving in the start-up world and growing into a thriving business.