UK Tech Landscape: Where do they Meetup?


Recently, we looked at how GitHub has been used to map the civic tech community. Yet, as noted by the project’s author Stefan Baack, GitHub is only one of many websites that are used to connect the tech community.

Other websites, like Meetup and EventBrite, have emerged to make it easier for people to create and manage community events. When registering, users express interest on particular topics (like ‘data science’ or ‘online marketing’) and are shown information about groups near to them that focus on those topics (or similar ones). Nesta analyzed the data generated by these platforms to help understand when and where new technology communities emerge and evolve, and how they connect to each other.

To this end, the team queried the Meetup API for groups in the ‘Tech’ category in UK cities, and extracted 1,391 groups based in 160 unique locations in the UK, with a gross total of 434,826 members; 2,569 group topics had to be arranged into a smaller set of ‘tech fields’ containing interrelated topics.  This analysis followed a ‘data-driven’ approach based on scientometrics principles (the quantitative analysis of science and technology metrics, such as academics papers and patents), as well as community detection algorithms to look for densely connected ‘clusters’ of tech fields and the relationships between them.

For example, using locations supplied by event organizers, the team at Nesta was able to reveal the geography of particular subsets of tech Meetups – visualized in the following maps:


Image: Nesta

Here, the size of the circles represents the number of groups for a field in a particular location, after a logarithmic transformation to prevent London (which hosts 56% of the meetup groups) completely dominating the map. Although the analysis reveals some “usual suspects” one often hears mentioned in discussions about the UK tech economy, such as London, Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge or Edinburgh, it is also possible to see high levels of tech meetup activity in locations such as Belfast, Birmingham, or Cardiff. In general, the North of the UK has less tech meet-up activity than the South (echoing the findings in Nesta’s geography of the creative and high tech’s economy).

In another analysis of Meetup data for Tech Nation, Nesta expanded the method to reveal the geographical patterns of networking between tech clusters across the UK. Among findings, they detected a large amount of informal networking between tech clusters, particularly in the North West, and along the M4 corridor. This challenges the notion that digital tech clusters operate in geographical silos or that digital tech clusters in some areas develop at the expense of others.

This project was featured as a part of Nesta’s ‘Innovation Analytics: A guide to new data and measurement in innovation’ policy report. Read the full report here.