Inside Europe's hidden tech cities

Portland, San Francisco, London. Few places scream tech start-up more than these places. But when rents get higher and entrepreneurs can no longer afford to live in these hives of creativity, where should they look to next? We suss out the best cities for tech in 2015...

Tallinn, Estonia

Along with Eindhoven, Tallinn regularly tops the list as one of the most intelligent cities according to the Intelligent Community Forum. After all, it is the city that gave us Skype. But it isn’t just start-ups and kooky entrepreneurs that the city uses tech for. It’s everywhere.

From getting a free bus ride by swiping a smart card that then tracks your movements (all public transport here is free if you’re a Tallin resident) to using a special code to mail a package from locker to locker, Tallinn residents use advanced technology every day. All ID cards have chips in them, and parking is paid electronically using a mobile phone code.

Unsurprisingly, Tallinn has its own version of Silicon Valley in the form of Technopolis, which is located near to the airport. It hosts a large number of tech enterprises, with both SMEs and more established companies. Spokeswoman for the city of Tallinn Mari Pever explains that all residents are connected to a very good wifi network too: "Tallinn has over 30 WiFi hotsports for its citizens and visitors, most of which are in the city centre and the Old Town, many are near popular tourist attractions. The network, TallinnWifi, may be connected to for free and its has a download speed of 15Mbps per hotspot."

Pever added that the headquarters of the European IT agency is based in Tallinn, as is the NATO cooperative cyber defence centre of excellence. If you’ve got brown thumbs, Tallinn has a lot going for it.

Malmo, Sweden

In this southern Swedish city, there has been a steady transition from old industry to one of knowledge. In Malmo, the tech start-up scene is thriving. Medical and biotechnology are strong sectors in the city, but there is a large amount of recent investment into improving the technology scene. 

Known as the emerging Scandinavian start-up hub, Malmo recently hosted a StartUp weekend, which is a global grassroots initiative with the aim of bringing entrepreneurs and small businesses together to learn and grow. Other initiatives in Malmo include other ways to get entrepreneurs to meet and mingle at events like Women Founders Breakfast, Startup Dojo, and MINC events.

As somewhere to live and visit, Malmo is well connected to the rest of Europe, especially to more established start-up hubs in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Eindhoven, Netherlands

Eindhoven has long played second fiddle to Rotterdam in terms of tech and innovation. Holland has been quite content to let Amsterdam carry the arts and culture branch, while Rotterdam and Eindhoven push ahead in the fields of electronic music, cutting-edge architecture, and tech innovation.

Yet Eindhoven is, according to statistics, one of the world's most inventive cities. "Patent intensity" is one way that the OECD measures how innovative a city is, and, In 2013, 22.6 patents were registered per 10,000 people in Eindhoven. Additionally, Eindhoven has been voted a "knowledge community" by the Intelligent Community Forum.

To put it bluntly, if you want tech and innovation there are few better places than Eindhoven if you want to surround yourself with bright colleagues and clients.

And Eindhoven is cashing in on it's innovative reputation. The High Tech Campus describes itself as "the smartest km2 in the Netherlands" and is home to 125 companies and 10,000 researchers and entrepreneurs. The Netherlands is also a tempting prospect for entrepreneurs because highly skilled migrant visas are available. This is a fast immigration process for those who are qualified from outside the EU. Work permits, so difficult to get for non-EU citizens in some countries, can be gained in between four to six weeks.

Brno, Czech Republic

The Czech Republic's second city, Brno is also one of Europe's burgeoning tech hubs. This city has one of the highest concentrations of tech universities in central Europe: here, you can find the Brno University of technology, the Central European Institute of Technology Research Institute, and the Technical University of Technology. 

As well as staggeringly good learning opportunities, Brno is also home to a venture known as StarCube, a start-up accelerator which offers three month mentorships giving help, support, and guidance to entrepreneurs.

If that wasn’t enough, Brno is also home to the Czech Technology Park which provides nearly 200,000m2 of office space for new businesses and shares premises with huge brands such as Motorola and IBM.

The city's 400,000 inhabitants contain a great many entrepreneurial minds which are enabling the development of initiatives such as the accelerators and business parks, without doubt one to watch in 2015.


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