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June 27, 2016

Britain’s digital economy heads North

  • The Northern Powerhouse is set to become the cornerstone of the UK’s digital economy according to Flat White Economy guru Douglas McWilliams
  • Digital economy in Northern Powerhouse to grow 20% pa over period to 2020 compared with 5%pa in London
  • North of England digital jobs to grow from 284,000 in 2015 to 622,000 in 2020
  • By 2020, the Flat White Economy will account for one job in 11 in the North of England

New predictions released today by leading economist Douglas McWilliams, author of the best selling digital economy book The Flat White Economy and President of Cebr – the Centre for Economics and Business Research – show that the North of England is set to become the jobs centre of the UK digital economy.


By 2020, one job in every eleven jobs in the North of England will be in the digital economy.


The total of over 620,000 digital jobs in the North of England will outnumber the number of jobs in London by more than 60% by 2020. In 2015 London had 13.6% more digital jobs than the North of England.


McWilliams and his colleagues at Cebr have used an analysis based on the US experience to model the likely growth in the Flat White Economy in the North of England.


‘We have found that three factors determine 80% of the growth in the Flat White Economy in cities in the US – the proportion and number of highly educated people in the city; the strength of the city’s cultural offering; and the cheapness of accommodation. Using our modelling based on the US experience we predict very rapid growth in jobs in the Flat White Economy in the North of England’ says McWilliams.


The key to the expected growth in jobs in the North of England is the combination of high levels of skills from the region’s strong academic centres of excellence, the spread of music and art in the regions and the low cost of living, particularly when compared with the South of England. The region is likely to be most successful in the parts of the digital economy where cost is a key driver.


McWilliams and his colleagues have analysed every district in England and Wales to produce a ‘Flat White Economy Index’ for each district.


McWilliams and Cebr Chief Executive Graham Brough are cycling from Liverpool to Hull across the Pennines from June 27 to 1 July 2016 in ‘The Great Northern Powerhouse Bike Ride’ to raise awareness and money for drug rehab.


They will release the detailed Flat White Economy figures for the local district in each town that they visit.


Events scheduled around the bike ride include:


Book signing      Blackwells Liverpool                                     9.30 am 27 June

Book signing      Waterstones Manchester                             4.30 pm 27 June

Digital Insider Dinner Malmaison Manchester                    6:30 pm 27 June

Book signing      Blackwells Leeds                                           4.30 pm 29 June


Local press releases will be available in:

Monday 27 June morning leave Liverpool
Monday 27 June lunch Leigh, Lancs (Douglas McWilliams’s birthplace)
Monday 27 June evening Digital Insider dinner, Manchester
Tuesday 28 June lunch Hebden Bridge
Tuesday 28 June evening Halifax
Wednesday 29 June lunch Dewsbury (Graham Brough’s birthplace)
Wednesday 29 June evening Dinner, Leeds
Thursday 30 June lunch York
Friday 1 July lunch Beverley
Friday 1 July evening Hull




Cebr is a leading independent commercial economics consultancy with particular strengths in macroeconomic and market forecasting. The report has been authored by Cebr staff.


The Flat White Economy was published in hardback by Duckworth in March 2015 and an updated version was published in paperback in March 2016.


Douglas McWilliams was former Chief Economist for the CBI and for IBM UK and founded Cebr in 1993. He is currently President having served as Chief Executive and Chairman.


For more details of the Great Northern Powerhouse Cycle Ride see:



For more information, please contact: 


Douglas McWilliams  07710 083 652   OR   dmcwilliams@cebr.com

Graham Brough   gbrough@cebr.com

Shivam Talukdar  intern2@cebr.com

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