Breaking down Cardiff’s Economy

As the capital of Wales, Cardiff plays a central role in the nation’s immediate and long-term economic success, especially in the uncertain future that the UK faces after Brexit.

Cardiff has an estimated population of 361,200. Of this number, 244,300 are aged 16 to 64. 48% of the workforce is qualified to NVQ4+, which puts it well ahead of Wales (35.1%) and the UK (38.4%). With a projected 20% increase in its population by 2036, it is the fastest-growing core city in the UK.

Moreover, in 2016, Cardiff was responsible for 17% of the total gross value added (GVA) for Wales. The city also showed a GVA growth rate of 5.7% over the year, outpacing Wales and the UK.

To get a clear picture of how Cardiff is driving Welsh progress, here is a breakdown of the city’s major industries.

Science and Technology

Cardiff boasts of being a world-class development hub for compound semiconductors. Over 2,000 highly-skilled people work on foundational technologies that power smartphones across the globe.

The Cardiff Capital Region City Deal aims to expand this particular sector with a £38.5 million investment in building the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster through the Cardiff Innovation Campus. The Campus will host the Institute for Compound Semiconductors, the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, and the first social science research park.

Meanwhile, the bioscience sector employs 1,700 people, making it one of the largest clusters in the UK. Stem cell research and clinical trials, wound prevention and treatment, and the manufacture of irradiation, electromedical, and electrotherapeutic equipment are just some of the innovative applications of life sciences happening in the city.

The following global companies are based in Cardiff, among others:

  • GE Healthcare
  • Norgine
  • ConvaTec
  • ReNeuron
  • Genesis Bioscience
  • Ortho Clinical Diagnostics

Cardiff Bay is also home to Life Sciences Hub Wales, where health and social care organisations and businesses work together for scientific advancement and economic progress. Johnson & Johnson Innovation has joined NHS Wales, Arthurian Life Sciences, Finance Wales, and BBI Healthcare in the Hub.

Finance and Business

Over 50,000 people work in Cardiff’s ever-growing finance sector, having grown more than 60% in employment over the past decade, which is faster than any other city in the UK. Activities in this industry have generated £4 billion of output.

A good mix of international and local companies has put Cardiff’s finance sector on the map. From financial services to accountancy firms, here are some of the major players based in the city:

  • Admiral
  • Atradius
  • Deloitte
  • Grant Thornton
  • Julian Hodge Bank
  • KPMG
  • Legal & General
  • Lloyds Bank
  • PWC
  • The Principality Building Society
  • Thomas Carroll
  • Zurich

Academic institutions work alongside such companies, supplying a steady stream of new talent educated through courses that have been developed with cutting-edge business practices, strategies, and technologies in mind. Cardiff University has partnered with Legal & General to provide specialised medical training for medical underwriters and claims assessors to be specific.

Advanced Manufacturing

The advanced manufacturing sector in Cardiff focuses on electronics, steel production, and automotive and aerospace manufacturing. About 4,000 workers make up the industry.

Universities in the city play an important supporting role in the sector’s success. The Centre for Advanced Manufacturing Systems at Cardiff (CAMSAC) pushes for innovation in engineering with business practices in mind. Funding from public institutions such as the Technology Strategy Board, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the Welsh Government make this all possible.

Cardiff University’s Institute of Energy works with global strategic engineering and environmental consultancy Ricardo, as well as global defence and security company Qinetiq, to develop alternative fuels and technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

Celsa Steel UK, located in Seawall Road, is the largest manufacturer of steel reinforcement in the UK, whilst the Cardiff Airport and St Athan Enterprise Zone continues development to accommodate more businesses within the aerospace manufacturing subsector.

In line with Cardiff’s investment in semiconductor technology, the city is home to IQE, one of Britain’s leading semiconductor companies. IQE is currently utilising advanced crystal growth technology to manufacture and supply bespoke semiconductor wafers to leading chip manufacturers.

Culture and Creative Industries

A combination of mass media entertainment and entrepreneurial digital-minded creatives forms Cardiff’s cultural sector. With over 6,000 people employed in the industry from diverse backgrounds, the soul of the city contributes greatly to the country’s economy.

The BBC has a major presence in Cardiff, with the BBC Drama Village in Porth Teigr, Cardiff Bay and BBC Wales now having its regional headquarters at Central Square. Flagship BBC dramas such as Casualty, Pobol y Cwm, Sherlock, and Doctor Who are produced within the 170,000 square foot facility of the BBC Drama Village.

Multinational film and television studio company Pinewood Studios have established Pinewood Studio Wales in Cardiff in 2015, injecting £90 million into the economy. Free-to-air TV channels ITV and S4C also have studios set up in the city.

There are 1,600 creative businesses of varying sizes in Cardiff, supported by incubation spaces and start-up communities Cardiff Business Technology Centre has been providing working spaces and general business support since 2015 and Cardiff Start is a community of entrepreneurs, students, and investors that promote creative and digital start-ups

Cardiff’s university system fuels the creative industry every year with 5,000 graduates well-versed in animation, visual effects, and digital and mobile technology development. This factors greatly into Cardiff accounting for a third of all Welsh creative industry jobs.

The Creative and Digital Accelerator and Academy Project is yet another initiative to welcome investments to start-ups in the creative and digital fields. The Local Government, the Welsh Government, Further and Higher Education, and industry representatives will be taking part in the programme.

Connecting Cardiff

Infrastructure projects will tie together the economic developments of the city. There is the Cardiff Parkway, a £120 million mainline train station and business park to be constructed at St. Mellons and projected to employ 15,000 people. About £58 million will be spent on redeveloping Cardiff Central. The £734 million South Wales Metro project will make transportation easier not just across Cardiff but also throughout the region.

With its strong economic foundation, Cardiff is more than ready for the UK’s trials and opportunities. And if you’re looking to set up your base in Cardiff, give us a call at 0117 244 3585 or send us an email to

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