Business in Bristol

Once a launching point for voyages to the New World, Bristol was the port where John Cabot set sail on the Venetian in 1479 to explore North America. The city emerged as one of England's most important cities until the Industrial Revolution led to the rise of Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool. The UK's eight most populous city is now a diverse economy with strong aerospace, creative media and electronics industries.

Bristol's Economy

Long associated with trade, Bristol was a major exporter of wool cloth. It also imported fish, wine, grain and dairy products as well as tobacco, tropical fruits and other goods. Rivers with docks played a major role in trade starting from the thirteenth century, while ships have been launched from Bristol since as early as 1420. Today, Bristol's economy is largely driven by a diverse range of industries. One of the UK's most productive local economies, the city has strong clusters in aerospace and advanced engineering, creative and digital industries, high tech, low carbon technologies, and financial and professional business services. Bristol is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK.

The city is home to bases for several innovators and industry leaders, including Airbus, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, HP Labs, Aardman, and Intel. The services sector is the biggest employer in Bristol and provides jobs to 91.4 per cent of the population in 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics. Most service jobs are in financial and business services, which accounts for 30.1 per cent of jobs in Bristol. Public Administration, education and health employs 29.1 per cent of Bristol's workforce. Other major sectors include Wholesale and retail, which employs 14.5 per cent. Manufacturing accounts for just 4.1 per cent of all jobs. In 2015, there were approximately 16,636 enterprises in Bristol. Of these, 87.5 per cent employed nine employees or less. Only 70 businesses were considered large, employing 250 or more people. About 375 businesses were small and medium sized enterprises with between 50 and 249 staff.

Bristol's Infrastructure

Bristol is well connected to London and other major markets throughout the South West and the rest of the United Kingdom. By road, the M5 motorway connects Bristol with Birmingham to the north-east and Exeter to the south-west. The M32 motorway links the city centre with the M4 motorway, which connects London and Wales. The M49 provides a shortcut between the M5 and the M4's Severn Crossing. Bristol Council is investing £400 million to further enhance the city's transport infrastructure while also making it greener and smarter.

Bristol Temple Meads near the city centre and Bristol Parkway to the north are the city's mainline rail stations. Trains link Bristol with Swansea and Cardiff to the west and London to the east, as well as Birmingham and other destinations to the north. Bristol Temple Meads is also at the heart of one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK. Launched in 2012, the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone has attracted more than 350 businesses and is a growing cluster for start-ups in the creative and digital industries. Upgraded in 2001, Bristol Airport provides flights to cities throughout the UK and Europe. The city is also home to the Royal Portbury Docks, one of the UK's busiest ports with access to international markets. The port also anchors Harbourside, a mixed-use development with retail, business and residential space.

In addition to roads and runways, Bristol also has a wealth of sport and artistic infrastructure with the Arnolfini, Bristol Pavilion, Memorial Stadium, the Royal West of England Academy, and Spike Island. Along with being the home of Bristol FC, Ashton Gate Stadium is one of the South West's top conference and events venue. The city is also home to the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England. Bristol's two major universities also provide a range of venues and facilities, including a new conference centre with more than 4,000 square metres of exhibition space. There is also a wealth of unique venues, including the AtBristol Science Centre and the Bristol Aquarium.

Supports for Businesses

The UK government awards a variety of business grants for businesses based in the city. The Small Loans for Business Scheme offers loans of up to 50,000 for viable small and medium sized businesses that have not been able to access financing from banks. The Enterprise Finance Guarantee provides a government guarantee when lenders loan money to businesses, while Finance for Business delivers flexible financing including loans and equity. The Grant for Business Investment (GBI) scheme provides grants starting at 10,000 for capital to support business investment or job creation projects. Bristol City Council also offers business rates relief.

Businesses in Bristol have access to a range of funding options, including the West of England Growth Fund. The Fund provides grants of between £10,000 to £80,000 to businesses and projects that generate economic growth or job creation in the area. The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership also offers grants through the UK government's Regional Growth Fund, which allows funding of between million to support research and development, training, capital investment, and recruitment. There is also the Microcredit Fund that provides financing to start-ups and established businesses. Low interest loans of up to £50,000 are also available from the South West Loans Fund. Business accelerator programmes are found at the Bristol and Bath Science Park (BBSP) and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre, while SETsquared and its Engine Shed Enterprise Centre provides customised advice, mentoring and funding for early-stage businesses.