Capital achieves top 10 placing among the best UK cities in which to start a business

Date posted

18 December 2020


Edinburgh, renowned for its heritage, culture and festivals, has long had international appeal and was recently also named in the top 10 UK cities for expats.

The quality of life the city offers underpins why it was the highest scoring Scottish city in the start-up ranking developed by StartupsGeek: only Glasgow joined it among the UK’s top 20 and London sits in 27th place. 

Assessing a range of factors – from start-up survival rate to average rental costs over five years; and from average weekly earnings to graduate retention rates -  Edinburgh did well across the board, appearing in the top 10 for almost all of the individual metrics.


Nick Fannin, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Napier, was not surprised.  He said: “I see the city’s appeal on a daily basis: I am responsible for ensuring all of our students have access to enterprise training as well as running our university business incubators where we support our students, staff and alumni to set up their own businesses.

“Something exciting has been happening here over the last 10 years or so, and Edinburgh has become a great start-up city. 

“The ecosystem is quite diverse and while you could say there is a particular focus on things like AI, Big Data and Bioscience, we’re also a World Heritage site and have the biggest Arts Festival in the World, so there are big opportunities for the Creative Industries as well as tourism.

“Players in the ecosystem talk to each other regularly and are willing to collaborate in building teams around good ideas. Also, the air is fresh and the quality of life is high. What’s not to like?

“The emergence of several unicorns – firms that achieved a market valuation in excess of $1bn, have both benefitted from and nurtured this vibrant start-up scene. In turn, this has led to an influx of aspiring entrepreneurs and experienced investors who recognise the opportunities that Edinburgh now has to offer.”

There is a great entrepreneurial support eco-system across Scotland with national and local governmental aligned in support and many organisations, incubators and accelerators providing access to advice, training, mentoring and access to finance and networks.

“One of the big drivers here is the fact that there are four great universities in the city, who all nurture new research, new ideas and aspiring entrepreneurs. If you look at the HE-BCI data, universities in Edinburgh were responsible for more than half the student start-ups in Scotland in the past four years.

“At Edinburgh Napier, we have seen post-pandemic growth in start-up activity and we supported 71 new businesses in our incubators. We have also seen spin-out successes in recent years with the acquisitions of ZoneFox and Symphonic: but we are able to hold onto the expertise and the experience. Dr Jamie Graves, who was founder and CEO at ZoneFox until they were acquired by Fortinet, is a regular at the university helping us inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and so the cycle repeats. 

“This network is going to be vital as the UK looks to post-covid economic recovery, and hopefully Edinburgh can be a real driver in that.”

Edinburgh Napier was voted the #1 university in Edinburgh for student satisfaction in 2020 (National Student Survey) and the #1 modern university in Scotland in The Sunday Times’ Good University Guide 2021.