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Could Manchester’s ‘enormous potential’ see it become the UK’s Silicon Valley?

Manchester has always been at the forefront of industry and technology, but a new report suggests Manchester could become the new Silicon Valley

The Government should seize the opportunities of Manchester’s growing technology sector by investing to build a new innovation district in the city, according to a new report by Centre for Cities.

As part of last month’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced plans to make Britain the “world’s next Silicon Valley” with ambitions to “build clusters for new growth industries”.

And Manchester has been identified as an ‘innovation accelerator’, where the Centre for Cities are calling on The Government to build a ‘high tech cluster’ which will produce cutting edge technology, putting us at the forefront of the world innovation stage once more.

Birmingham and Glasgow have also been identified as areas which could see investment in high tech.

The Centre for Cities report are calling for the Government to properly fund infrastructure in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow  by creating a £14.5billion growth package.

This money would go towards funding infrastructure upgrades, improving public transport, and boosting research and development (R&D) to help make each place more attractive to emerging advanced tech industries

The report, titled  At the Frontier: The geography of the UK’s new economy says: “Manchester shows great potential as an innovation hub and is already home to around 42 per cent of the 3,332 new economy firms in the North West.

“Investing to further increase its appeal to these emerging industries would significantly improve the city’s productivity, driving economic growth and creating more high-skilled jobs.”

Centre for Cities Chief Executive Andrew Carter said: “As a city that was at the centre of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester is no stranger to seizing the opportunities of innovation and technological progress.

“It continues to show great potential more than 200 years on and is already developing as a key hub for advanced tech firms in the North West.

“However, given its size, Manchester should be playing a larger role in the national economy than it currently does. The Government should therefore build on Manchester’s great potential and deliver the investments it needs in skills, regeneration, and infrastructure to attract more cutting-edge businesses and reclaim its historic place as a city at the forefront of innovation.”

The report also states:

“Delivering innovation districts in Birmingham, Glasgow, and Manchester should be the first step in the creation of a new industrial strategy that looks at how places can cater for a range of emerging industries, in contrast to recent plans that have only focused on the development of specific sectors.

“Today’s report also calls on the Government to further support the new economy more generally across the UK by:

  • Increasing R&D funding targets from 2.4 per cent of GDP to 2.7 per cent by 2027.
  • Reversing the cuts to public skills spending seen over the last 12 years and setting a target to increase spending from 5 per cent of GDP to 7 per cent.
  • Expanding R&D tax credits to expenditures associated with innovative services.
  • Extending the Strength in Places Fund to continue to provide specific support to innovative activities across the country, with funding continuing to come from the Strategic Programmes budget.

“Finally, to address the UK’s skills shortage and to reflect the role that a diverse workforce plays in innovating companies, the Government should expand the period of the ‘graduate visa’ from two to five years and guarantee the policy will not be reverted in the next decade. This would make the post-work visa more competitive compared to international peers, such as Australia.”

Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council and GMCA Portfolio Lead for Economy and Business, said: “This report recognises the enormous potential for innovation-led growth in the UK’s regional cities, in Greater Manchester and especially Manchester city centre, as existing clusters of tech and innovation businesses expand and take advantage of a central location.

“Our city-region is already home to pioneering research and facilities, as well as a large pool of talent – match these with the right powers and investment and we can contribute significantly to levelling up and sustainable economic growth.

“Its recommendations echo our call for the Innovation Accelerator to be a catalyst for developing a world-class innovation ecosystem in Manchester and Greater Manchester, in keeping with our vision of economic growth which benefits everyone.”

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