Technology Hubs

New tech hubs in Europe: best cities for IT jobs

Traditional tech hubs in Europe are getting competition. What’s happening in European IT points to a global trend where bigger isn’t always better. Learn more.

Where IT is concerned, the biggest city doesn’t always equate to the highest concentration of innovation or the best job scene. The best cities for tech jobs in Europe can surprise you. Here’s how digital jobs are changing Europe’s landscape.

You need not live in London or New York to land a really competitive job in IT, and in some cases, you might even be better off living in a less densely populated city or town. The best tech cities in Europe aren't as obvious as they used to be.

The CompTIA Tech Town Index 2019, published earlier this year, shows quite clearly that smaller UK cities and towns well outside of London are making a global mark in technology and attracting top IT talent.

The UK At-a-Glance

From robotics and AI to aerospace and medical technology, the UK tech landscape is much more diverse and powerful than just a smattering of startups around the country and a few Fortune 500 companies with a presence in London. It’s a powerful force, deeply rooted in research and connected to the nation’s universities and colleges, and is helping to shape the world tech economy.

For tech job-seekers, London is no longer the place to be. Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, and Birmingham all scored higher, thanks to cost-of-living, job growth and emerging industry.

Techtown Uk 1
Tech Town Report, CompTIA 2019

Key Sectors: Finance, Banking, Information Technology, Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Agriculture, Education

Population of Key Cities: London: 9.7 million, Birmingham: 2.5 million, Manchester: 1.9 million, Glasgow: 1 million, Leeds: 760,000, Bristol: 535,000, Edinburgh: 482,000

Salary Insights: With salaries trending higher to keep up with cost-of-living, a cloud architect in London might expect to earn around £76,000 while the same title in Bath might bring in £54,000. A software developer in Edinburgh could earn around £33,000, with that number jumping to £45,000 in London - although so does cost of living.

Techtown Uk 2
Top UK tech hubs, Tech Town Report, CompTIA 2019

New tech hubs in Europe: where are IT jobs going?

The trend seems to indicate that IT pros, who often benefit from flexible or remote working arrangements, are settling in places with lower cost of living. But we’re also seeing concentration of talent around new or emerging industry hubs.

Bristol, for example, boasts a dense talent pool for aerospace and robotics, aided in part by a world-class university and such employers as the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Boeing.

This counterurbanisation-of-sorts has been manifesting elsewhere, as well. In the U.S., the city of Huntsville in the relatively rural state of Alabama has witnessed massive influx of talent to support its position as a national aerospace and defense hub. Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte in North Carolina have also followed this trend, earning top tech-hub status.

On the European continent, cities like Berlin and Amsterdam certainly still get top (albeit fairly obvious) billing as IT capitals by volume alone, but other small and less prominent locations are becoming established as tech hubs.

We’re taking a look at a few examples of how the tech talent landscape is changing in Europe and what it looks like. Join us for a quick trip to the continent...

Switzerland’s Crypto Valley

Cryptocurrency and related technology have proven one of the most lucrative and interesting investment areas in recent times, with cryptocurrencies market capitalisation north of $200 billion today.

How the idyllic town of Zug, Switzerland -- home to just around 30,000 people (with a regional/canton population of closer to 100,000) -- came to be Ground Zero for all things crypto is a fascinating story of tax incentives, well-established pharmaceutical giants in the vicinity, and a well-heeled, business-friendly local populace.

Nevertheless, Zug attracts world-class tech minds to work for such crypto-savvy entities as Bitcoin Suisse, Xapo, and Consensys and remains a global player in a sector that defies expectations and geographical boundaries.

Zug At-a-Glance

Key Sectors: Pharmaceutical/Medical Technology, Cryptocurrency & related fields, Banking

Population: 30,000

Salary Insights: A cryptocurrency or blockchain developer in Zug can expect to earn between $120,000 and $180,000 a year (well above their U.S. counterparts).

Startups Thriving A-Ghent-All Odds in Belgium

The Belgian city of Ghent, which is neither the capital nor the most populous city in the country, is projected to have 165% tech growth year-on-year, making it one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in Europe.

How did this come to be? Aided in part by the top-notch Ghent University and a thriving research scene, this relatively small city has been home to successful tech players Drupal and TeleAtlas.

Ghent is now also home to a burgeoning startup culture that makes it a lucrative place for entrepreneurs and those hoping to get a boost from the area’s many tech accelerators. In this city, spunky startups that may or may not make it sit alongside medieval monasteries that have stood the test of time, and tech meetups happen daily.

Companies like Innogenetics, Cropdesign and Bayer Cropscience are among the top employers, giving an indication of the pharma-heavy regional focus. Ghent is just one city, but is a strong example of how IT is faring well in smaller cities.

Ghent At-a-Glance

Key Sectors: Pharmaceutical/Biotech, Software, Consumer Goods

Population: 262,000

Salary Insights: A software engineer in Ghent can expect to earn around $61,000

German Automation

Germany’s tech scene is thriving in too many ways to list, with Berlin serving as one of the world’s most exciting startup cities for IT pros.

Perhaps the most interesting tech development across Germany is in the area of artificial intelligence and robotics. With 309 robots per 10,000 employees, (74 is the global average), Germany has the most automated workforce in Europe, and that number is expected to grow by 5% in the next several years as the appetite for automation grows.

Major global players like Airbus in Hamburg and Amazon in Berlin are attracting top engineering and robotics talent to Deutschland.

Still, it’s Munich, home to the world-renowned Technical University of Munich, that is the location of some of the most fascinating new developments in the field, like the first autonomous humanoid robot with full-body artificial skin.

Workers in this city can expect to have higher-than-average disposable income (‎€29,685 compared to Berlin’s ‎€19,719, for example), and good prospects for upward mobility.

Speaking of Germany, it’s worth calling out the northern city of Hamburg, which has become a tech epicenter in its own right. Giants like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter all now have a presence in Hamburg, and local startups have raised hundreds of millions of Euro in the last few years alone. For IT job-seekers, Hamburg is a great place to be.

Germany At-a-Glance

Key Sectors: Automotive, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical, Electrical

Population of Key Cities: Berlin: 3.5 million, Hamburg: 1.8 million, Munich: 1.4 million, Cologne: 1 million, Frankfurt: 732,000, Stuttgart: 623,000

Salary Insights: A cloud architect in Germany can expect to earn around €88,000 (national average), with that number rising to around €137,000 in Munich or €101,000 in Berlin. By contrast, a software developer can expect to bring in €54,158 a year (national average), with that number staying fairly consistent across cities.

Stockholm: Unicorn Hub of the North

Small-but-mighty Stockholm seems to have offered up a perfect storm for unicorns (tech startups valued at over $1 billion) to emerge.

Skype, Spotify and Minecraft all came into being in this city of just over one million residents, and Stockholm continues to provide an ideal climate for innovation.

A history of widespread and reliable internet access, and the presence of several robust, older companies like Ericsson, Ikea and Volvo have also played a role in helping younger generations of techies get their start and their funding.

At present, nearly one in five people in the city work in tech-related roles, and Stockholm sits as the third most lucrative global city for startup investment.

Stockholm At-a-Glance

Key Sectors: ICT (Information & Communications Technology), Cleantech, Life Science, Fintech, Creative

Population: 1.4 million

Salary Insights: A software developer in Stockholm can expect to earn around $55,000 on average.

Incubation in Central and Eastern Europe

What’s happening in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) isn’t so much a trend as an all-around technology explosion. Cities once known to the West as stark, industrial hubs are absolutely swimming in startup capital, with innovative ventures and tech incubators attracting new talent and jobs.

Slovakia has been dubbed the “Detroit of Europe”, and is home to Aeromobil, a company that is building flying cars, as well as a testing ground for a human-transport Hyperloop. Estonia, Latvia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have all earned top billing as some of the world’s most innovative countries, with Poland and Romania gaining ground quickly.

The fintech hub of Budapest has an investment scene comparable in value to that of top UK tech city Manchester, while Prague -- home to a plethora of gaming, SaaS and social media ventures -- matches up with powerful Cambridge.

In Romania (aka “Techslyvania”), there are 6 developers for every 1,000 residents, while Poland has one of the fastest-growing tech workforces in Europe. It’s said that there are one million developers across the entire region, and the future of CEE is and will remain exciting for anyone with their finger on the pulse of emerging tech.

CEE At-a-Glance

Key Sectors: Biotech, Consumer Goods, Automotive, Information Technology, Chemical, Manufacturing
Population of Key Cities: Bucharest: 2.1 million, Minsk: 1.9 million, Warsaw: 1.8 million, Budapest, 1.7 million, Prague: 1.3 million, Sofia: 1.2 million, Riga: 637,000, Tallinn: 426,000, Bratislava: 424,000,
Salary Insights: While IT salaries trend lower in CEE (A software developer earns just €27,000 on average in Tallinn, and €24,000 in Bratislava), the cost of living across the region is substantially lower.

To learn more about cyber security and how the market is developing, check out the following links:

Looking Ahead

The Europe (and indeed the UK) we all know was built around a mixture of cultural, agricultural and industrial hubs, well before the digital landscape of today was conceptualised.

Our current reality, though, is that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly changing the demographics of our cities as people migrate not for physical purposes, but for digital ones.

As companies and individuals realize their role in the digital economy, it seems that the places we have long taken for granted as business powerhouses may indeed lose steam and become less important.

In today’s world, tiny Lehi, Utah and Zug, Switzerland are just as likely, if not more likely, to attract entrepreneurial IT minds than Berlin or San Francisco. In today’s economy, connectivity and digital connectedness is everything, and the jobs and people will follow.

Read more on the Tech Town Index 2019 to learn which cities in the UK are tops for IT professionals. To kick-start your own tech career, check out some of our CompTIA accelerated courses.

Gillian Seely is a freelance writer and communications consultant with over ten years of experience in content strategy and writing, including as an in-house strategist for a FTSE100 company. She primarily writes about technology, education and employment, and splits her time between the U.S. and the UK.