Manchester Tech sector
Manchester has a lot to be proud of. Sport, music and community spirit are matters in which the city excels – as any Mancunian (or Sham-cunian like myself) will tell you. But there’s another area where Manchester is steadily steaking its claim to be among the best cities in the world: its tech scene.
We may still be a long way off Silicon Valley, but we’re so much more than just the UK’s ‘second city’. Granted, London has far more tech companies than Manchester and still draws more talent than anywhere else in the country, but that’s to be expected of a city ten times the size. That said, Manchester’s tech scene is growing, and it’s growing fast. Last year, the ONS reported that nearly 2,000 new Manchester-based businesses were set up in the previous 12 months – an increase of 10%, which is well above the national average of 4.3%.
This year’s TechNation report has found that over 60,000 Mancunians are directly employed in the tech industry. It shows that nationally, the digital economy is one of the few recent success stories, growing at twice the rate of the wider economy and being a major key to boosting the UK’s productivity. In this sector, Manchester is one of the frontrunners, its tech sector bringing in £2.9bn in 2016. There are three digital ‘unicorns’ in the city (companies valued at over $1bn) – AutoTrader, Moneysupermarket.com and The Hut Group. Boohoo.com and AO.com are two more rising stars of the Manc scene. That’s without mentioning Media City, which is already the creative hub outside of the M25 and is set to double in size within the next decade.
Such a boom invites investment. A couple of months ago, the Bright Building opened on the Oxford Road Corridor, promising to ‘nurture Manchester’s digital future’. The building is home to digital incubation hub Mi-IDEA. A collaboration between Manchester Science Partnership and leading tech company Cisco, it will ‘support start-ups to scale and provide a space for co-innovation in the region’. It’s also the base for CityVerve, who describe themselves as ‘the UK’s smart city demonstrator… bringing together the brightest minds and pioneering uses of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to redefine ‘smart’ in the context of a living, working city.’
This may sound a bit waffle-y, but the location of the Bright Building gives the words some substance. For those unfamiliar with Manchester, the Oxford Road Corridor is home to two of the city’s three main universities. The TechNation report suggests that the talented pool of students emerging from The University of Manchester (the largest university in the country, and also home to the world’s first programmed computer), Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Salford. Their computer science courses are highly valued by employers, and the Oxford Road Corridor is without doubt one of the ripest areas to foster young tech talent in the country.
This feeds into the vibe of the city – and vibe is important! Youthful, tech-savvy and undeniably cool, Manchester has the perfect ingredients for a digital start-up. Rent won’t break the bank, for the company or employees. The digital/tech sector is by no means solely a young person’s game, but for many the call of the capital city grows stronger as they get older because London seems the natural choice if you want to advance a career. Hopefully, the figures above suggest that this is starting to change, but looking on the bright side, the migration has kept Manchester fresh. It’s no wonder our emblem is a worker bee – this city has a real buzz about it.
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