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Can Greater Manchester Top 2018?

18th January 2019

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Tim Newns, CEO at MIDAS, the Greater Manchester inward investment agency, casts his mind back over the region’s 2018 innovations and asks how we can fuel further growth in 2019.
 

Greater Manchester had an incredible 2018. The city of firsts, from the splitting of the atom to the birthplace of the industrial revolution, has cemented itself as a city of innovation. This year, Greater Manchester secured its highest ever ranking on the 2018 Innovation Cities Index, ahead of Beijing, Oslo and Shanghai.

Recognising Greater Manchester’s growing status as the UK’s hotbed for innovation, we have become a destination of choice for life sciences, digital development, financial services, manufacturing and world-class education. Take technology: last February, IT giant Tech Mahindra brought 60 jobs into the region through a Salford HQ and innovation lab. Months later, Jaguar Land Rover announced its intentions to bring a new IT, software and engineering centre to Manchester, to pioneer technology for the next generation of connected cars. Soon they will be joined by global giants including TalkTalk, GCHQ and Amazon, which announced the creation of 600 highly-skilled jobs. In life sciences, genomic diagnostics company Qiagen announced it will be heading to Citylabs 2.0, amplifying our existing strengths in this area.

Our commitment to investment is not only creating hundreds of jobs for residents, it is attracting a growing talent pool. This year, record numbers of students chose to stay in Greater Manchester after graduating and an increasing number of professionals are moving from London, attracted to the city’s high quality of life, availability of highly-skilled jobs and true career path. These investments benefit the talent pool and attract global firms, further strengthening the collaborative offering of the region.

In a look back at the region’s achievements in 2018, it would be remiss not to touch upon graphene. In December, the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) opened in the city, a facility which will work with industry to translate science into commercialised products. Graphene was first isolated in Manchester in 2004 by two Nobel prize winning physicists and provides a truly collaborative international opportunity. Through this centre, we can strengthen ties with nations including China, America and India, presenting global partners with the resources to capitalise on this distinctly Mancunian discovery. In tangent with the National Graphene Institute, the GEIC will become a world-leading graphene hub.

Whilst there is a tendency to focus on the city centre as the focal point for graphene, the commercialisation of the material will have positive ramifications throughout the region, particularly for innovative SMEs. Healthcare, aerospace, tech and advanced manufacturing are just some of the industries Greater Manchester leads in; all could benefit from graphene commercialisations, or indeed bring these to market themselves through the GEIC’s support.

As well as research assets, numerous incubator spaces are opening across the city. In 2018, Barclays’ Salford Eagle Lab, an incubator for northern innovation, teamed up with Salford Royal Hospital to explore 3D anatomical printing. The application of this technology will allow for greater research to be carried out for operations, and enable specialists to quickly test future concepts for trauma victims, transforming how we perform A&E instant operations.

Looking Ahead

As we saw last year, access to support and collaboration is crucial to success for Greater Manchester’s SMEs, academics, creators and corporates. In 2018, MIDAS’ support enabled 78 companies to move and expand in the city across all sectors, helping to create £280m GVA and 3,977 jobs. For 2019, we hope to push this support even further.

In addition to attracting businesses and creating jobs, we will see the innovation infrastructure improved further by The Henry Royce Institute, which will be the UK’s Centre for Advanced Materials. The landmark centre will complement our existing graphene offering, with a broader materials focus creating a truly global offer.

Across Greater Manchester’s four universities, new research centres set to open next year will further cement our innovative status. The Cyber Foundry, alongside the National Cyber Security Centre, will put Manchester at “the centre of UK security”, whilst the University of Salford’s its Autonomous Vehicles Unit will complement the innovations of Jaguar Land Rover’s connected cars venture. Continuing our long history of sporting excellence, on and off the field, Manchester Metropolitan’s Sports Science campus will keep us at the cutting edge of innovation.

Collectively, Greater Manchester must capitalise on the region’s many achievements to fuel further growth and cement our position as one of the world’s leading innovative hubs. Momentum is growing, and the future looks positive. As a region, we have greater potential than ever before to attract inward investment and continue to climb the innovation ranks in 2019.

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