How Manchester aims to become the UK’s Leading Green and Digital City

Green Greater Manchester

Manchester has a rich history of innovation. From technological achievements (like the world’s first passenger railway and stored program electronic computer) to social progress in its Trade Union, co-operative, and women’s suffrage movements, Manchester has been a global leader.

Today, that spirit of innovation manifests itself through Greater Manchester’s goal of becoming the UK’s foremost green and digital city-region with its Local Industrial Strategy, now backed by the national government.

Local and National Government Partnership

The Local Industrial Strategy was launched by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, together with the Secretary of State for Businesses, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark and Deputy Mayor for the Economy Sir Richard Leese. With support from the national government, the city-region’s officials believe Greater Manchester can realise its pioneering industrial and social vision.

“We want to be the UK’s leading green city-region, which is why our ambition to achieve carbon-neutral living by 2038 is right at the heart of these plans. We will show that these plans are not just the right thing for people and the environment but also right for our economy,” Mayor Andy Burnham said.

The plan to achieve carbon-neutral living by 2038 is a bold one, being 12 years ahead of the national target announced by Theresa May in June. However, with the spectre of extreme climate change looming, it is as necessary a step the local government can take to address this urgent issue.

Meanwhile, Sir Richard Leese believes that working with the government and key partners in Greater Manchester will make sure everyone benefits from the economic growth and jobs that this project will create.

“Central to that [goal] will be cementing Greater Manchester’s place as a leader in advanced manufacturing, health innovation and within the creative and digital sectors. These key sectors are going to fuel the growth that all of our citizens will benefit from for years to come,” he said.

Greater Manchester enjoys the privilege of being the only second place in the UK to have a partnership with the national government regarding a Local Industrial Strategy (after West Midlands).

Challenges Greater Manchester Faces

This devolution deal sets out to address the obstacles identified by the Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review. These include infrastructure, population health, education and skills, leadership and management, and innovation—all of which are limiting the city-region’s economy.

Apart from local challenges, the Local Industrial Strategy will also tackle global issues that affect the city-region such as the climate crisis, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, ageing populations, and the onward march of technology.

The Local Industrial Strategy will address these concerns through the following key action plans:

  • To launch the UK’s first city-region Clean Growth Mission and achieve carbon neutral living in Greater Manchester by 2038
  • To position Greater Manchester as a global leader in health and care innovation by creating new industries and jobs, improving population health, and extending healthy life expectancy
  • To position Greater Manchester as a world-leading region for innovative firms to experiment with, develop, and adopt advanced materials in manufacturing
  • To build on Greater Manchester’s position as a leading European digital city region by maximising its growing assets in cyber security, enabling the digitalisation of all sectors, and capitalising on the links between digital and creative industries that feed internationally-significant clusters in broadcasting, content creation, and media
  • To ensure that the education, skills, and employment system within the city-region will allow everyone to reach their potential; employers will also have access to the skills required to deliver the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy

Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK and a member of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, echoed the sentiment of capitalising on the city-region’s core advantages to advance in the health, green, and manufacturing sectors.

According to Maier, this investment in Greater Manchester’s global research and industrial strengths will introduce new technologies and create new jobs in industries like low carbon technologies, advanced materials, and health innovation.

Manchester’s Strong Tech Sector and Working Culture

The city of Manchester already has a solid foundation to stand on when it comes to the digital and creative landscapes.

In 2016, Manchester ranked 16 out of 60 cities for startups and scale-ups in the European Digital City Index, thanks to its strong entrepreneurial culture, market, and non-digital infrastructure.

In the 2018 Innovation Cities Index, Manchester placed 34th in the global rankings of 500 countries. It is the only other UK city aside from London to be in the top 50, climbing 11 spots from its previous ranking. It outranked Shanghai, Oslo, Madrid, and Tel Aviv.

TechNation pegged the number of digital jobs in Manchester at 69,837, the GVA of the digital sector at £3.4 billion, and its turnover at £3.2 billion in 2017.

Throughout the North West, RSM counted 1,079 software development and programming businesses incorporated in 2018, almost double the number of tech startups in 2017. The 48% growth was the highest of any UK region. These figures were released soon after Manchester was dubbed the third best tech hub in the UK as well.

Manchester also boasts of being one of the six UK cities to have a 5G network. It’s another advantage to working in tech in the city, as Internet speeds are several times faster than the more common 4G networks.

Manchester owes much of its digital sector’s continued growth to its three major universities. The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, and the University of Salford provide forward-thinking companies R&D resources in cloud computing and cyber security, as well as graduates highly educated in tech.

The importance of the coworking space culture in Manchester also cannot be understated. Such spaces help relieve start-ups of the costly burden of finding and buying or renting their own office space. These places are also perfect for flexible working hours, which is becoming increasingly popular with modern businesses run by young adults willing to break conventions.

Another advantage to Manchester promoting collaborative working spaces is opening up opportunities for businesses to more easily establish connections. With workers from different backgrounds sharing ideas and information, the skill and knowledge base of the city’s talent pool grows wider and deeper.

Bold Ambitions Inspired by a History of Progress

Manchester and the Greater Manchester city-region are stepping forward to assume the big responsibility of leading the UK into the future. With cities competing on the cutting edge of technology and the environment on the brink of emergency, it’s going to take more than confidence for Manchester to achieve its ambitions.

Fortunately for the city and its people, that confidence is founded on a track record of concrete cultural and economic progress fostered by strong political will.

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