Who are the technology innovators?

As previous Nesta-funded research has shown, innovative companies, industrial clusters, and high-growth companies are critical to the UK economy. Policymakers and investors aim to accelerate and encourage such companies, and to push forward greater innovation and growth.

We are particularly interested in innovation and growth in high-technology software firms. It’s hard for those from outside the field to navigate this foreign world well; official public data on individual companies in this sector is insufficient because the most innovative firms are often small and fast-changing, and the complexity and rate of change of what they are working on is very high. The end result of this is that large organisations can struggle to understand or invest effectively in new technologies and the firms that create them. The good news is that there is a large amount of raw material which could help close this information gap: implicit and informal information about high-technology firms, influencers, and topics is shared all the time.

This project uses data about technologists from Github, Twitter, and about companies from Open Corporates, to create a new picture of these influencers in the UK. It takes influential individuals on Github as a starting point, and explores their social networks outwards. See methodology page for more information, and please contact us if you'd like to use or build on this research further.


This chart shows the most influential UK-based individuals, measured by how many other professionals are following their work. Following someone on Github means that you wish to see what software code they're working on, and to be alerted to any updates.

These few people each have over 500 such followers, so their work is clearly regarded as important by their peers. We've found that they break down into two main groups: "builders", who have created their own useful and usable libraries and components which others reuse a lot, and "teachers" who are more explicitly aiming to create demos and learning materials for others.

We use these people as a starting point to gain more insight into the wider social network of innovative software developers. See the networks page to explore further.


This chart shows which organisations innovative UK individuals are working at. Individuals often don't publicly declare where they work, so the sample numbers on this are smaller than for cities and software code.

There is a strong public sector presence - the biggest organisations include the BBC, the Government Digital Service, and the University of Cambridge.

There is also a strong American presence, from UK developers working for US-owned companies including Google and Twitter.

Finally, there are a number of open source companies, including Mozilla and Red Hat, which we would particularly expect to see working 'in the open' in this data.


This chart shows where in the UK people are based. The numbers are very heavily dominated by London, to an even greater extent than we might intuitively expect.

Technology Heatmap

Finally, this chart shows which technologies are hot in which places. The darker the colour, the more "repositories" (software projects) there are in that language.

The numbers are dominated by Javascript, a language most commonly used to write web pages like this one.