The number of new businesses started in 2012 reached almost 500,000, a 10% increase on the previous year.
Research by campaign group StartUp Britain showed that last year 484,224 businesses were set up, compared to 440,600 in 2011.
Emma Jones, co-founder of StartUp Britain, said: "These figures are hot off the press. They are unaudited at the moment, but what it’s telling us is that there was a clear increase in start-up rates in 2012.
"Small and start-up business are the driving force of the British economy and at StartUp Britain we have seen plenty to celebrate over 2012.
"Times are hard yes, but it never ceases to amaze us when we see resourceful Britons making business ideas come to life in difficult times."
The numbers are verified by Companies House and will be audited in March 2013.