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Leeds is the best UK city to grow a business according to new analysis

Leeds has been named the best city to grow a business in the UK based on business survival rates, high growth enterprises and employment rates.

  • Leeds outperforms London as the best place to grow a business
  • Newcastle has the highest five-year business survival rates while Manchester has the lowest
  • Southampton tops the list for year-on-year increase for high growth enterprises

The latest findings come from analysis by The University of Law Business School. The research ranks the UK’s 25 largest cities across a range of factors, to reveal the best places for owners to expand their business this year.

Coming out on top is the country’s second largest city outside of London: Leeds. Known for its legal and financial industries, Leeds ranked highly for its five-year survival rate (42.9%) and the number of high growth enterprises (180), which has increased 12.5% year-on-year.

Surprisingly, London didn’t even make it into the top three, ranking fourth behind Leeds, Edinburgh and Bristol.

The top 10 best places to grow a business in 2024:

1. Leeds
2. Edinburgh
3. Bristol
4. London
5. Newcastle
6. Plymouth
7. Belfast
8. Sheffield
9. Reading
10. Portsmouth

With the UK’s typical five-year business survival rate at 39.6%, almost all the top 10 cities surpassed this. London and Reading however fell below the national average at 39.2% and 38.9% respectively.

Meanwhile northern cities performed well on this ranking factor, with Newcastle showing the highest business survival rate at 45.9%. Sheffield and Leeds aren’t far behind at 43.2% and 42.9%.

In fact, of the cities with the highest five-year survival rates three are in Yorkshire:

1. Newcastle – 45.9%
2. Plymouth – 45.1%
3. Belfast – 44.8%
4. Bradford – 43.3%
5. Sheffield 43.2%
6. Leeds – 42.9%
7. Bristol – 42.8%
8. Brighton – 41.8%
9. Edinburgh – 41.6%
10. Stoke – 41.5%

When it comes to the year-on-year increase in the number of high growth enterprises, again London struggles to even make the top ten. Southampton tops the list here with a huge 75% increase, followed by Hull (33%), Liverpool (26.6%) and Portsmouth (25%).

Of the top ten cities that rank lowest overall, seven are in the Midlands. Coventry ranks lowest overall, followed by Leicester and Nottingham.

However, based on business survival rates alone ULaw Business School’s research found Manchester to be the toughest city to succeed in. The five-year survival rate in Manchester is just 25.9%, almost 14 percentage points below the national average and a huge 20 percentage points behind highest ranking Newcastle.

Dr. Elizabeth Moore, Head of Leadership at ULaw Business School, comments: “It can be all too easy to think that London is the place to head to for investment in the UK. While it certainly has its benefits, there are so many exciting regional economies that are thriving across the UK now, it’s worth exploring your options outside of the capital.

“These findings are promising for the north of England, where there has been so much investment into infrastructure in recent years. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of debate around funding in the north of England, with HS2 being a constant talking point. These findings may just provide another strong argument for investment in the north.

“Finding the right place to grow your business takes careful planning and strategic thinking. Hopefully these findings provide a good platform for business owners to shape their growth strategies for this year.”

See the full ranking of the UK’s 25 largest cities