England’s second city: How Birmingham is paving the way for UK startups

The Pitch is growing – meaning the number of cities we’re visiting is, too. As well as our usual semi-finals in Bristol, London and Manchester, we’re also heading to some new cities. Announcing: The Pitch Birmingham.

Birmingham, alongside Edinburgh, has long been on our watchlist for The Pitch. Named the best city for support as well as second best for wellbeing, we’ve been itching to add the city to our growing list of competition locations.

England’s “second city” has long reigned as a tech-forward city, and was named the second best tech destination outside of London by CBRE. It also has a strong reputation for diversity within its tech ecosystem – an estimated 28% of employees in digital tech roles come from a BAME background.

A jaw-dropping 18,394 new enterprises started life in the city throughout 2020, marking the highest volume of UK startups outside of London. It’s a figure that gave the city the title of regional startup capital for its seventh year running.

Neil Rami, CEO at the West Midlands Growth Company, believes that this demonstrates the robustness of the city’s entrepreneurial landscape.

“It is encouraging to see Birmingham uphold its leading reputation as a thriving and vibrant hub of invention for a seventh year in a row.

“Despite the prevailing challenges faced by businesses, we hope this year’s Coventry City of Culture programme and the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games will inspire more ambitious entrepreneurs to explore how the West Midlands can elevate their ideas to the next level.”

Some Birmingham-based startups to keep an eye on include:

  • Air is a smart HR software designed for small and medium businesses
  • Whisk is an all-in-one app for recipe saving, meal planning, grocery shopping and recipe sharing. The founder Nick Holzherr originally presented the idea of Whisk to Lord Sugar in the final of the BBC Apprentice in 2012
  • Voxpopme is building the future of market research and customer experience with video feedback
  • Aceleron is using new battery technology to create the world’s first recyclable, upgradeable and serviceable lithium-ion batteries
  • WONDR brings together like-minded people around environmental and social topics to collaborate, share knowledge and accelerate progress

Support, incubators and accelerators for Birmingham founders

As an epicentre for startups, Birmingham has numerous support programmes, incubators and accelerators for founders based in the city.

E4F New Start

E4F New Start is designed to support entrepreneurs in the West Midlands area, inviting ambitious founders with a digital or tech business idea to apply.

SMEs can receive business support, business development opportunities, funding advice and grant opportunities.


BSEEN is a programme specifically for aspiring student and graduate entrepreneurs. 

Their 12-month programme supports startups from idea to launch and beyond, through a comprehensive package of support. This includes a training bootcamp to cover all the startup essentials, business grant, mentoring, networking opportunities and co-working space.


The STEAMhouse incubator provides entrepreneurs, startups and early-stage businesses with support and resources that can be otherwise difficult to access. 

This includes access to networks, investors and mentors, as well as co-working space alongside other businesses and experienced professionals.

The BioHub

The BioHub is a fully serviced biomedical incubator and accelerator. It’s designed to house early-stage life science companies from proof of concept through to expansion.


5PRING is the UK’s first 5G commercial innovation centre. Their aim is to help organisations of all sizes harness the power of 5G to deliver growth and innovation throughout the West Midlands and beyond.

The Black Pounds Project

The Black Pounds Project helps Black business owners learn how to increase revenue and achieve financial freedom.

With just 5% of SME businesses being ethnic-minority led in 2019, it’s hoped that initiatives such as the The Black Pounds Project will help minority-owned businesses thrive. 

You can find more information about Birmingham-based accelerators, incubators and support for digital and tech businesses here.

The next generation of talent

Every year, The Pitch sees plenty of recent graduates brimming with innovative business ideas.

As the youngest city in Europe, Birmingham is home to a wealth of young entrepreneurs. Each of its four universities has their own startup support programmes for their Brummie students:

University of Birmingham

The B Start-Up programme offers alumni and students the support to start and run a business, after graduation or during university. The scheme is supported through the university’s B-Enterprising service.

Birmingham City University

BCU Advantage is a business support service to help startups achieve their goals through collaborations with BCU experts, business specialists and recruitment professionals. They also work with several partner organisations and funding bodies.

University College Birmingham

Enterprise Hive offers an array of support for budding student entrepreneurs, from expert consultations to industry mentoring. There’s even a startup grant to get you going.

The HIVE Network is a professional network launched by University College Birmingham’s Business School. It helps to nurture partnerships between student entrepreneurs, academic experts and businesses.

Aston University

Aston University offers a host of programmes to support businesses in growing their startup or established SME.

Find out more about the programmes they offer here.

Newman University

Newman University partners with organisations to take their students’ startups to the next level in a supported environment. They provide in-house training and guidance, access to workspace and ongoing business mentoring.

Learn more about the support they offer business startups here.

Are you a Birmingham-based startup? Apply for The Pitch now

The Pitch is a free competition that gives startups the support to grow and the platform to raise investment. And it works – The Pitch 2021 finalists have already raised £1m+ through our connections.

For the first time ever, The Pitch will be holding a regional semi-final in Birmingham. This means that businesses local to the city will have the chance to pitch to investors and industry experts. 

Make it through and you’ll head to The Pitch Final, where there’s a £5k cash prize up for grabs.

Applications are closing at the end of the month, so make sure you enter now!

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Holly Sawyer
Holly is the Marketing Manager at Inkwell, the company behind The Pitch.

Applications for The Pitch 2024 are open!

The Pitch returns for another year of supporting startup founders with free advice, mentoring, investor introductions and opportunities to network with fellow founders.

The competition is completely free to enter so if you’re a UK-based startup who has been trading for 4 years or less then why not maximise your potential? 

Submit your application today to be in with a chance to win.

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