Research from Knight Frank has named Glasgow as the second most innovative city outside of London, with Edinburgh coming out on top.

According to findings in the UK Cities 2021 report, Edinburgh and Glasgow’s “innovation infrastructure” was the best among 39 major UK cities analysed.

The annual report analyses cities across the UK to rank locations based on a range of variables, such as quality of life and access to services.

Scotland’s capital performed well with regard to output from research institutions, patent generations at universities and the growing number of spin-outs being launched.

The city also scores highly for its burgeoning startup community, quality of life, and retention of a highly skilled workforce. Additional insights from Knight Frank’s research shows that more than half (53%) of students in Edinburgh intend to stay in the city post-graduation.

However, despite being top for innovation Edinburgh ranked 10th for its digital and physical connectivity, four places behind Glasgow, which placed sixth in the UK overall.

In measuring this, Knight Frank considers fibre availability, capacity, and performance, mobile network capabilities and proximity to data centre services.

Edinburgh Could be Hindered

Toby Withall, partner at Knight Frank Edinburgh, suggested this poor performance in digital and physical connectivity could hinder the capital as it continues to compete with other tech ecosystems across the UK.

“Edinburgh is well known for its academic institutions, quality of life, and thriving startup community – the tech sector, in particular, has grown to become one of the city’s most active occupiers,” he said.

“However, innovation increasingly relies on the support of digital infrastructure and, if the city is to maintain its position as the top innovation hub outside of London, then its comparative underperformance on this front will need to be addressed.”

Glasgow Continues to Impress

Glasgow, which placed second on Knight Frank’s index, ranks higher than a host of UK innovation hubs and continues to demonstrate a mature innovation infrastructure.

Scotland’s largest city also boasts a vibrant and expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem, the study found.

Colin Mackenzie, partner at Knight Frank Glasgow, said COP26 showcased “a lot of what Glasgow has to offer on the global stage” and commended the city’s heritage of delivering “scientific excellence and bold research”.

“Glasgow’s startup community is growing, and there are a broad range of ambitious new spin-outs emerging from the city’s world-class academic institutions,” he said.

Aberdeen Raising Eyebrows

Notably, Aberdeen was ranked ninth on Knight Frank’s index as the city looks to redefine its image as one of the top UK innovation hubs and a key location in Scotland’s tech ecosystem.

According to the Cities 2021 report, Aberdeen commands a strong innovation infrastructure, along with good scores for quality of life and the emerging startup community.

Matt Park, partner at Knight Frank Aberdeen, noted that this will be key to supporting the city’s transition from oil and gas toward a centre for renewable energy technologies.

“It is highly encouraging to see the city rank among the UK’s hotspots, particularly for the infrastructure that support innovation,” he explained.