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Manchester’s can-do attitude is driving the future of the northern powerhouse

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Manchester is Britain’s northern powerhouse, the home of the industrial revolution and the centre of the modern world. Yet for a city with such a rich history of entrepreneurialism, industry and innovation, Manchester has never relied on past glories. 

The city’s forward-looking spirit has always driven its thirst for modernisation and invention. It’s long been a home for a whole host of ground-breaking innovations and truly disruptive technologies, such as the world’s first programmable computer, Tom Kilburn and Fred Williams’ “Baby” (1948).

Hot on the heels of more recent tech success stories, such as the high-profile launch of the world’s first graphene dress, Manchester’s thriving tech community is now competing with the best in Europe and across the world. In light of this, there is little surprise that the focus of government and industrial investment in the region is squarely on the latest in disruptive technologies, such as smart energy, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 5G mobile networks and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Northern Powerhouse

Burgeoning start-up scene

The city’s burgeoning tech start-up scene is a key reason for the continuing growth in public and private sector investment opportunities that are fuelling Manchester’s future. Additionally, with Prime Minister Theresa May recently announcing the Industrial Strategy Fund and a commitment of £170 million capital funding to aid “the creation of prestigious new Institutes of Technology”, Manchester is an increasingly attractive place for investment.

It is, of course, superb to see the prosperous growth of Manchester’s tech industry and witness the government really begin to value the post-industrial potential of the north, although it is unsurprising.

In spring last year, Manchester was ranked the top location for doing business in Europe, according to a report by KPMG , w

ith the city ranked ahead of major capitals such as Berlin, Paris, London and Rome. This was due to the city’s unique mix: cost-effective business opportunities, a pool of skilled high-tech workers and the fact that, in 2017, it’s one of the world’s best cities in which to live and work.

At the time Jon Holt, office senior partner for KPMG in Manchester said: “Manchester has attracted significant levels of international investment for a number of years and it’s fantastic to see the strength of the city recognised on a global scale. Investors increasingly view Manchester as a natural place to do business, and an attractive alternative to London or other European capitals.”

Creativity, imagination and a desire to innovate

The aforementioned graphene dress, that changes colour when the wearer breathes - and which garnered numerous national headlines when it was launched at the Trafford Centre in January 2017 – is a great example of what Dr Paul Wiper from the National Graphene Institute cites as Manchester’s winning combination of “creativity, imagination and a desire to innovate”.

Building Manchester’s digital infrastructure is now the most pressing and vital task for investors, founders and entrepreneurs, which is why visitors to this year’s IP EXPO Manchester will have an unparalleled opportunity to understand how the latest technologies such as AI, IoT and big data analytics can and will transform their businesses.

From the continuing boom in new media start-ups, world-leading videogame designers and app developers through to the latest research and development in AI, IoT and robotics and a renewed focus on STEM in education, the latest round of investments into Manchester’s future firmly establish both the city and the UK as a 21st-century digital powerhouse.