In a crowded field that provides real grounds for optimism, Manchester was a deserved winner and can add another accolade to those provided by Time Out (‘One of the most exciting cities in the world’) and The Economist (‘The UK’s most liveable city’). The 100,000 students who choose to live there and those that make the city the second most popular destination for graduates in the UK, certainly seem to agree. And so do investors….
As the UK’s leading regional city for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and a pilot city for the Local Industrial Strategies (which establish new ways of working between national and local government, and the public and private sectors), Manchester’s industry strengths are centred around tech and emergent sectors, including advanced materials, healthcare analytics, cybersecurity and fintech.
This breadth of innovation is underpinned by a supportive infrastructure, the largest concentration of private equity firms outside of London and world-class university research and industry collaborations. This, in turn, fuels an entrepreneurial culture of spin-offs, start-ups and high-growth SMEs.
The city boasts a number of success stories. The Corridor Manchester Enterprise Zone, for example, is a top five European health innovation district with two universities, five hospitals and the CityLabs research commercialisation accelerator. It forms part of the largest clinical academic campus in Europe and sits within the region’s digitised data ecosystem that has hosted a global pilot for real-world large-scale medical trials. Leading the way with a UK Government High Performance Organisation (HPO) initiative on advanced materials, the city hosts the £60m Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre – a world-first for commercialising applications.
Meanwhile, the fintech sector has grown 50 per cent in the last decade – five times the national average (with strengths in payments, P2P lending and big data risk assessment) – and there is a £10m Cyber Innovation Centre alongside extensive peer networking via organisations such as Pro-Manchester and Manchester Digital. This ecosystem and the city’s strong pro-business proposition has encouraged corporations such as Amazon, Jaguar Land Rover and many others to move there.
“Successful cities today are those offering businesses access to knowledge, in terms of workers, clients, collaborators and competitors,” says one of our judges, Paul Swinney from the Centre for Cities. “Manchester in particular is increasingly doing this, and we see the results in terms of the types of businesses now locating there, especially in its city centre.”
Ideally placed to capitalise on its location at the heart of the UK and as the ‘Crossroads of the North’– the region will be an even more attractive proposition after the arrival of HS2. It’s what Metro Mayor Andy Burham means when he says: “There’s certainly a sense of stars aligning.”
Manchester has redoubled its efforts to reduce carbon emissions in line with the science-based targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. It is now at the forefront of world cities leading on this issue.
The North Sea Connect project will bring vast digital infrastructure to the area and, via existing subsea networks, give Newcastle the UK’s best connections to businesses in America and Europe