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Mapping information economy business with big data: findings from the UK

This paper uses innovative ‘big data’ resources to measure the size of the information economy in the UK.

This paper uses innovative ‘big data’ resources to measure the size of the information economy in the UK.

Key Findings

  • Counts of information economy firms are 42 per cent larger than SIC-based estimates
  • Using ‘big data’ estimates, the research finds 225,800 information economy businesses in the UK
  • Information economy businesses are highly clustered across the country, with very high counts in the Greater South East, notably London (especially central and east London), as well as big cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol
  • Looking at local clusters, we find hotspots in Middlesbrough, Aberdeen, Brighton, Cambridge and Coventry, among others

Information and Communications Technologies – and the digital economy they support – are of enduring interest to researchers and policymakers. National and local government are particularly keen to understand the characteristics and growth potential of ‘their’ digital businesses.

Given the recent resurgence of interest in industrial policy across many developed countries, there is now substantial policy interest in developing stronger, more competitive digital economies. For example, the UK’s current industrial strategy combines horizontal interventions with support for seven key sectors, of which the ‘information economy’ is one.

The desire to grow high–tech clusters is often prominent in the policy mix – for instance, the UK’s Tech City UK initiative, Regional Innovation Clusters in the US and elements of ‘smart specialisation’ policies in the EU.

In this paper, NIESR and Growth Intelligence use novel ‘big data’ sources to improve our understanding of information economy businesses in the UK – that is, those involved in the production of ICTs. We use this experience to critically reflect on some of the opportunities and challenges presented by big data tools and analytics for economic research and policymaking.

Authors

Max Nathan and Anna Rosso with Francois Bouet