Leeds-List: The Best & Most Insightful Guide to Leeds

The Big Tech Trends Attracting New Businesses to the Leeds City Region

· Ali Turner · Opinion

AI, smart cities, medtech and more – it's all going on in the Leeds City Region.

Drone Pilot

Every year, more and more tech businesses decide to invest in the Leeds City Region – but what’s drawing them here?

The tech trends revolutionising the industry right now are the same ones that are attracting businesses to the Leeds City Region. Why? Because we’re at the forefront of the sector. From AI to smart cities, the future of tech is being developed within our boundaries, so newcomers will find themselves in good company. Find out what’s coming and why we’re leading the way…

Artificial Intelligence

The University of Leeds

Credit: The University of Leeds

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen an explosion of major breakthroughs in the field of artificial intelligence. It’s caused a quantum change in the capability of modern algorithms and opened up a world of new possibilities. From robotics to autonomous cars, AI is changing the way we do just about everything and it’s happening right here in the Leeds City Region.

The University of Leeds is doing a lot of work with AI. In fact, they’ve recently launched a new PhD programme with 50 fully-funded positions looking at how AI can be used in digital pathology. This is game-changing research that will focus on early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care of cancer, so it could have a real impact on people’s lives, and they’ll be working directly with Leeds Teaching Hospitals to ensure that it meets the needs of the medical community.

And it’s not just PhDs. The region’s universities are helping to create the next generation of AI pioneers with undergraduate degrees, Masters courses and live research projects with local businesses that explore the possibilities of AI in a real-life environment. Beyond the universities, AI is being used in almost every industry – it’s essential to our thriving med and fintech sectors, it’s key to each and every business that works with big data, it’s the inspiration behind many a tech start-up and it’s attracting new businesses.


NHS Digital

The world around us is changing. Technological and medical advancements have increased our life expectancies, but the ageing population is putting pressure on our health and social care systems. Now the challenge is to find new digital solutions that will improve efficiency, patient care and outcomes.

Healthcare is already an important part of the region’s economy. Leeds Teaching Hospitals is one of the biggest NHS Trusts in the country. As a centre of excellence, it employs over 18,000 people and provides over 100 specialist services, which means the region has some of the best clinicians and most advanced medical technology in the world. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that medtech companies have been drawn to the region.

NHS Digital, the national IT partner to the health and social care system, is based here, as are TPP and EMIS, the largest providers of medical records systems to all GP surgeries in the country. And they’re joined by innovators like mHabitat, Unilabs and Neotherix. Coupled with The Medical Technologies IKC at the University of Leeds, the Digital Health Enterprise Zone at the University of Bradford and new initiatives like Elmwood LaunchPod, an accelerator programme designed to help start-ups develop the consumer future of health, it’s clear that the Leeds City Region is becoming a real medtech hub.

Big Data


Credit: Simon and Simon Photography

AI has unlocked the potential of data – now we can process millions of pieces of data in seconds and turn reams of raw information into valuable insight. It’s revolutionised the way we do business, but even now, we’re only just scratching the surface of what’s possible, so this particular tech trend will pay dividends in the future.

The Leeds City Region is home to a string of research centres that are pushing boundaries and driving innovation. Leeds Institute of Data Analytics (LIDA) brings together 150 researchers and analysts from across the University of Leeds to tackle social and environmental problems, while 3M BIC acts as a gateway to the University of Huddersfield’s research centres, bringing together businesses and academics to find new ways of doing things. And let’s not forget that Leeds has one of just three ‘Pioneer Nodes’ of the Open Data Institute (ODI).

The region has long been a hub for the financial services and health industries, which combined with our data expertise, has helped us to side-step into med and fintech. But they’re just a drop in the ocean – big data is transforming businesses from every industry. The Data Shed handles 30 million+ data events every day for its clients, while Sky Betting & Gaming has built its own custom-made big data platform that feeds into everything from financial reporting and risk liability to security and live betting.

Smart Cities

As technology advances, it becomes more and more integral to our everyday lives, but what you might not realise is that it’s become part of the very cities we live in. From data gathering to transport and infrastructure, smart cities use the latest cutting edge technology to solve problems and improve residents’ lives. It’s still a very new concept, but the Leeds City Region is at the forefront of research and they have two big projects on the go.

The first is Self-repairing Cities, an ambitious project that aims to achieve zero disruption from street works by 2050. How? By developing robots that can fix cracks in roads, maintain our streetlights and repair pipes from within. The second is VirtuoCity, a new project that brings together local authorities, automotive companies and mobility service providers to share data and develop new models using cutting edge research.

Elsewhere in the region, Bradford has stepped forward to help shape the way drone technology evolves and how it impacts our lives. Flying High set out to develop a drone framework for five UK cities and that’s exactly what they’ve done – they’ve identified five use cases to explore the feasibility of drones, including supporting the fire and rescue service in Bradford and providing medical deliveries in London. Now they’re going to launch challenge prizes to encourage innovators to solve the problem.