brands Doing Digital Differently: How Greater Manchester is building upon its broad horizons

By Kate Temperley, MIDAS Head of Business Development. October 2023

As the UK’s leading city for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outside London (EY’s 2023 UK Attractiveness Survey), Manchester is looking forward to a key moment in its creative, digital and tech calendar. This Digitober, Kate Temperley shares why the MIDAS team will be packing their bags for Portugal in its commitment to growing and building upon the success of the city’s burgeoning tech ecosystem.

“The connection between Manchester and Portugal is familiar territory; whilst the city’s digital and tech offering may not have been at the top of the wish list for arguably the greatest footballer of a generation Christiano Ronaldo, when he chose to make Manchester his home, next month, the city will grow its reputation as a key destination for all things digital as one of70,000 delegates attending the annual Web summit in Lisbon.

Attended by policymakers, heads of state, founders and CEOs of technology companies, and fast-growing start-ups from around the world, the city’s presence at “the world’s premier tech conference” (Politico) will raisethe profile of the city and attract investment - not only from Europe, but investors worldwide, enhancing Greater Manchester as a key destination for those wishing to take advantage of all the city has to offer.

Friends from far places

Since 1997, MIDAS – Greater Manchester’s award-winning inward investment promotion agency – has helped hundreds of businesses successfully relocate to and expand in the city region. Greater Manchester is where  become neighbours with start-ups and SMEs, and more than 2,000 foreign owned companies and leading brands have settled here including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft to name a few.

But did you know there has been a rebound in GVA Investment and job creation? 2021/22 suffered a sharp drop when compared to 2020/21 making FinTech (around £33.5m) and Cyber (over £11m) the largest contributors in GVA Investments within the Technology sector during the 3-year period.

In the last 3 financial years, a total GVA Investment of more than £78m was created from22 Technology sector-based projects which have created over 1,150 jobs. Of these, 15 were FDI-based, representing over £49m GVA income and725 jobs created.

The most recent Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES), shows there are 77,960 employees in digital and creative industries in GM.

The equivalent GVA figure is £6.2bn, fromthe ONS' Regional GVA figures.

In the last financial year, 30% of jobs created were from the tech and digital sector, making it the number one type of job role. Notable companies include e-commerce company Castore, software firm Credera (formerly DMW Group), and IT services provider North Highland.

Attending the Web Summit in Lisbon is a natural next step as we spread the word that Greater Manchester is the place to do digital. With more than 10,000 digital and tech businesses, it lies at the heart of the Government’s plans to establish the North West Cyber Corridor and continues to build on its heritage in scientific advancements. The £10m Digital Security Hub (DiSH) is a key initiative of Greater Manchester’s Digital Blueprint in the city’s ambition to be a top five European digital city region. It has become avital gathering space for world-wide collaboration. Only last month an Australian Government led delegation of scaling cyber companies visited, to learn more about the opportunities Manchester can offer them and hear from those who have set up their businesses in the region.

North West schools and colleges are among the best in the UK for cyber education. CyberFirst Schools & Colleges, a pioneering programme backed by global tech businesses and the UK's National Cyber Security Centre(NCSC) encouraging a more diverse range of young people to pursue careers in the cyber sector has resulted in £1.57 million social impact upon the city, building the case for Manchester as a first-choice destination for socially conscious international brands seeking to future-proof their workforce.

Meanwhile The United States continues to be a leading source of FDI projects into the UK. Earlier this year, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, and Cllr Bev Craig, GMCA portfolio lead for Economy and Business led a UK-first mission to North Carolina to further strengthen cultural and economic ties, with a mission to Japan announced as the next stop in their itinerary scheduled for December.

The big question

The real question many Web Summit attendees will be asking, is where do we go from here? With 54,400 jobs in Greater Manchester’s creative and digital companies alone generating around £3.1 billion GVA across content production, digital services and technology - not to mention sub-sectors such as e-commerce, smart cities, cyber security, AR/VR, gaming and animation - keeping up with this rapidly growing sector alongside the speed at which technology evolves means perhaps, even by the time we return to Manchester, the landscape will surely represent something Back To The Future shaped as the region – enabled by huge investment from overseas – as it continues to innovate and stay ahead of the curve at a growing rate.

Building community

It's no secret Manchester is a pioneering city. Turn every corner and even amongst the shimmering edges of a contemporary landscape, you’ll be faced by reminders of the region’s industrial past. And yet, the birthplace of the world’s first stored program computer doesn’t intend to slow down; what truly sets the city apart is that despite its progress in an expanding digital arena, people remain at its heart. The development of Enterprise City (located around the site of the renowned Granada Studios) is a great example; its boom in cybersecurity businesses choosing to set up or move to the neighbourhood offers an exciting prospect as it successfully connects the dots by welcoming established cyber divisions of global defence companies such as Raytheon, BAE Systems AI and Northrop Grumman – all of which contribute to growing these communities at the heart of such developments.

This in turn enables individuals and industry to connect and grow together; FDI continues to create jobs and new opportunities in the digital sector but only when it taps into the breadth and depth of the city region’s expertise. With more than 2.8 million people with cross-industry opportunities for collaboration, Manchester has become a world-class offering for the international investor. Visiting Portugal this November will be a vital part of our mission to raise Manchester’s presence in this area and it’s incredibly exciting to be able to share exactly why and how Digital really is, in our city’s DNA.”

To learn more about moving your business to, or expanding it in Greater Manchester, visit the MIDAS website or get in touch with the team today. You can also keep up to date with MIDAS via Twitter and LinkedIn.

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