York’s Key Business Strengths

York is home to two world class universities, and is a UNESCO City of Media Arts and the UK’s first Gigabit city. The city’s knowledge-driven economy is amongst the strongest in the UK with a solid reputation for research, development, innovation and academic excellence.

Industries which are particularly well represented include:

  • Biotechnology
  • Digital, Creative & IT
  • Rail
  • Finance & Professional Services
  • Tourism & Hospitality

Organisations with links to these business areas will find a natural home for events in York; with our networks across the city and beyond, we’re here to connect you with local expertise in your field and introduce you to key people and companies.


York is at the centre of a unique circular bioeconomy innovation cluster, with the wider region providing rich agriculture, industrial manufacturing and food and drink production. The city hosts centres of excellence such as the world-class departments of Green Chemistry and Biology at the University of York, the York Biotech Campus (also home to the Lakeside Conference Centre) and York Science Park. The latter site accommodates significant healthcare innovation businesses such as Covance - the world’s most comprehensive drug development service company helping pharma and biotech companies develop 100% of the top 50 prescription drugs in the marketplace today.

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Essential provision of support for the sector is also found in York through organisations such as:
BioVale: co-founder of Yorkshire's bioeconomy cluster.
BioYork: University of York-led initiative driving the development of UK biobased industries to deliver growth, jobs and environmental benefits.
Biorenewables Development Centre: provides open access, bio-based pilot scale facilities, and is a co-founder of Bio Pilots UK which links together the four UK biorefining open access centres.
Fera Science Ltd: supports and develops a sustainable food chain, a healthy natural environment and to protect the global community from biological and chemical risks.

Digital, Creative and IT

The success of York's digital, creative & IT sector lies in its ability to cross fertilise. With its reputation as a hotbed of idea generation and cross-sector working, York's world-class academia collaborate with the numerous centres of excellence and entrepreneurs to create IT, digital and creative outputs for the collective good. York is where tech combines with rail to roll out the solution to sending real time information to incident response rooms; where gaming combines with esports, education and cultural heritage to address challenges; and where research in immersive tech combines with creativity to deliver new audience experiences.

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DC Labs World Centre of Excellence: exploring what the world might look like in 2050 if we are to get the very best from artificial intelligence and digital technology.
Smart Transport Evolution Programme: York is in a leadership position for real-time transport modelling, communication and decision making, and at the forefront of the accelerating electric vehicle take-up.
UNESCO City of Media Arts: with the UNESCO designation, York moves in a network of global cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor in sustainable urban development.

The Institute for Safe Autonomy: a major £45m research centre opens later this year at the University of York. The dedicated new building, with specialist laboratories and testing facilities, aims to place York at the forefront of research, finding solutions to the global challenges in assuring the safety of robotics and connected autonomous systems.  


York’s pioneering railway industry heritage dates back to 1841, and the dynamic cluster that has developed in and around the city is building on this legacy to make York the railway city of the future. Centrally located on the UK rail network, the city sits at the heart of the UK’s largest rail cluster with a breadth and depth of skills unique to York. We're also home to leading rail companies and a host of sub-sectors such as rail engineering, consultancy, manufacturing of specialist parts and rail digital innovation. The York Rail Innovation Community (YoRIC) connects rail expertise in York, creating a network for knowledge sharing and showcasing rail innovation in the city.

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Companies based here include: Amey, Arup, Grand Central, Incremental Solutions, LNER, Network Rail, Omnicom Balfour Beatty, Siemens, Signature Rail

5,500+ employees in York within the rail and related sectors.

14% of UK rail industry jobs located across Yorkshire and the North East.

140+ direct rail connections. London to York in under 2 hours by rail, and York to Edinburgh in 2 hours 20 minutes.

Financial & Professional Services

York has a growing financial and professional services sector with key strengths in insurance, finance and legal. An established insurance hub, York is home to major national and international firms, including Aviva, Hiscox and NFU Mutual.

Financial and related professional services are a key contributor to the York economy, accounting for 8.2% of the working population in York and £635 million (12.1%) of the GVA (gross value added).

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“As well as being a cultural jewel of a city, York has a great community of businesses who get together keenly and frequently. I think that many of us came here from leading national and international firms having fallen in love with the city thinking ‘how can I do the sort of work that I’m doing now but in York?’ We have a superb collection of lawyers who work closely with the city’s accountants, IFAs, surveyors, agents etc to deliver top-class services to clients from the city, the region and beyond.”

Andrew Digwood, Partner, Rollits LLP & former President of York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce

Tourism & Hospitality

Our city has a rich history, from Viking invasions and Civil War sieges, to industrial growth and changing industries. This blend of history and constant innovation are what make York the foremost city for heritage in the UK. A city which has always reinvented itself, while never forgetting its past.

The tourism sector is vitally important to York, being worth over £765m to the local economy and sustaining more than 24,000 jobs, and before covid-19 the city attracted 8.4 million visitors per annum.

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While the covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on tourism globally, in York we are taking the opportunity to build back better; keeping infection rates low, while pioneering new approaches so residents and visitors can once again enjoy the city safely.

Our top priority is to build confidence in the city as a safe and welcoming place for residents and visitors to enjoy, as well as promoting York’s unique character and the diverse range of experiences on offer. We are currently delivering this activity through a joint Tourism Recovery Marketing Strategy in partnership with City of York Council.